This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.
There’s some good news and some concerning news from Mars. First, the good news. NASA’s Perseverance rover drilled and collected its 14th rock sample on the red planet. Now the concerning news. There’s something going on with the rover’s sampling system and it hasn’t been able to cap and seal the sample tube.
On Tuesday, NASA tweeted an update from the rover’s point of view, writing, “Over the weekend, I collected my 14th rock core, but I was unable to seal the sample tube. The sample is stored safely inside my caching assembly, but some work remains to figure out how to cap and seal the tube.”
Perseverance is building up a Martian rock collection that NASA intends to fetch and bring back to Earth for close study. The sampling process involves coring out a pencil-thick piece of rock, placing it into a tube and sealing the tube for safekeeping and to prevent contamination.
The rover has been gathering paired samples and researchers are particularly excited about the rocks it’s found in an ancient river delta region of the Jezero Crater. Scientists have spotted signs of organic matter in some of those rocks, but it will take closer, in-person study to know if they might contain evidence of long-ago microbial life.
Percy had just collected its lucky 13th rock sample and had no issues with successfully sealing and tucking it away. NASA images show both the 13th and 14th samples came from near each other.
It’s not easy piloting a robotic roving laboratory on a distant, inhospitable planet. Troubleshooting comes with the territory. Perseverance has already dealt with pebbles and stringy mystery debris in its sampling system. The rover team has navigated Percy through all of its challenges so far and will strive to work through this latest glitch.
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