This story is part of, our series exploring the red planet.
Rocks don’t just disappear into the air. NASA has since baffled the mystery of Marslast week. When the rover examined the sample inside the collecting tube, it found nothing. Turns out the rock itself might be wrong.
The rover dug into a promising rock in Jezero Crater, an ancient lake bed. The sampling process appears to be working as expected. It was supposed to be the first piece of rock the rover had stored for.
NASA is evaluating the data and taking a closer look at the drilling site to find out what happened and why the sample tube ended up empty. “It appears that the rock was not strong enough to produce a core,” Louise Jandoura said, the chief engineer for sampling and buffering, in a statement Wednesday.
The images show crushed rock around the drill hole, indicating that the rock simply collapsed. “It is likely that the material from the core needed will either be at the bottom of the hole, in the cutting pile, or a combination of both,” Gondora said.
Perseverance is equipped with 43 sample tubes, so losing a single rock isn’t a blow to the mission. The rover is on its way to another sampling location where it will try again. The team expects to find a rock more suitable for sampling for its collection.
The good news is that persistence sampling appears to be working quite well. An uncooperative rock won’t slow the rover’s scientific movement.
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