Using new conduct techniques afterwards a adjourned electrical motor apoplectic sampling operations on Mars, the Curiosity departer has delivered bedrock crumb to one of its onboard lab instruments for assay for the aboriginal time aback 2016, admiral said Monday.
The rover’s percussive drill, army on the end of Curiosity’s automatic arm, apathetic into a ambition alleged “Duluth” on May 20. The assignment calm a aggregate of burst bedrock crumb application the arm for stability, a new operating approach for the mission’s sampling system.
It was the rover’s aboriginal accumulating of a bedrock crumb sample aback October 2016.
On May 31, the assignment alone off allotment of the sample into an aperture on Curiosity’s science accouter arch into the rover’s mineralogy laboratory, alleged CheMin. Over the weekend, the assignment delivered addition allotment of the case into the rover’s allure instrument, accepted by the acronym SAM, abbreviate for Sample Assay at Mars.
“This was no babyish feat. It represents months and months of assignment by our aggregation to cull this off,” said Jim Erickson, activity administrator for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Class in Pasadena, California. “JPL’s engineers had to ad-lib a new way for the departer to assignment rocks on Mars afterwards a automated botheration took the assignment offline in December 2016.”
CheMin is advised to axle X-rays at the Martian samples, again admeasurement how the X-rays animation off the clear anatomy of the material. Ceremony mineral diffracts X-rays in a altered pattern, acceptance the apparatus to actuate the composition of the sample, and the role of baptize in the rock’s accumulation and evolution.
SAM will broil the crumb in an oven to several hundred degrees, again assay the gases advancing off the bedrock specimen. The apparatus additionally contains a laser spectrometer and a accumulation spectrometer, allowance scientists chase for compounds absolute carbon, a architecture block of life, and added elements begin in amoebic material.
Engineers detected a botheration with the assignment in December 2016, aback an electric motor central the assignment augment apparatus stalled.
The augment motor is supposed to extend the assignment bit to blow the apparent of Martian rocks. During the mission’s 15 conduct operations afore the motor failure, two fang-like acquaintance posts on ceremony ancillary of the assignment bit apprenticed on the ambition bedrock for stability, again the assignment augment motor pushed the bit assimilate the rock.
Percussive and alternating mechanisms drive the bit into the ambition to retrieve a crumb sample.
With the assignment augment apparatus no best anxiously working, managers absitively to accumulate the assignment bit in its continued position. That aloft apropos over the adherence of the assignment while in use because the prong-like extensions on ceremony ancillary of the bit will no best be in acquaintance with the rock.
“We had to do a big axis in the mission cerebration about how we could assignment after the augment motor,” said Ashwin Vasavada, the Curiosity mission’s activity scientist at JPL, in a presentation to the Mars Exploration Program Assay Group in April.
Controllers devised a way to use force activated by the automatic arm to absent out armament generated by the drill, a role the arm was never advised to fill.
Engineers acclimated a replica of the Curiosity departer at JPL’s “Mars Yard” to ysis out the new conduct techniques, and the departer accomplished a ysis aperture in a bedrock on Mars in February. That ysis did not aftermath a scientifically advantageous bedrock sample — it acclimated alone the drill’s rotary mechanism, not its hammer-like bang adequacy — but yielded important abstracts for engineers to abide adorning the adapted conduct technique.
That was aloof one footfall in convalescent the drill.
Engineers additionally had to bulk out how to bear sample from the assignment to the CheMin and SAM instruments because the apparatus was advised bead the crumb into the miniature labs with the assignment bit withdrawn, not extended.
With the bit assuredly extended, a sieving accessory central the assignment is no best able to absolutely allocation out samples for commitment to CheMin and SAM. That device, alleged the Accumulating and Handling for In-Situ Martian Bedrock Assay (CHIMRA) tool, can alone be acclimated with the assignment bit retracted, according to NASA.
“We had to bulk out how to bear sample actual cautiously to the instruments that has not be sieved and has not been portioned application our archetypal tools,” Vasavada said in April, as engineers able to ysis out the new techniques on Mars for the aboriginal time.
The new sample commitment technique, alleged “feed continued sample transfer,” uses the motion of the assignment spinning in the about-face direction, acceptance crumb to crawl out of the assignment and into inlets agriculture CheMin and SAM.
“Normally, (when) you assignment the actual goes up these flutes and gets calm into a chamber,” Vasavada said. “You can absolutely about-face the process. You can circuit the assignment in the added direction, use beating and bang in the assignment to actuate that sample to move, and apprentice how to time those releases of sample so you almost the allocation admeasurement that the instruments are acclimated to getting.”
The instruments charge to accept the appropriate bulk of sample to appropriately do their work.
“Too little powder, and the laboratories can’t accommodate authentic yses,” admiral wrote in a columnist absolution Monday. “Too much, and it could charge the instruments, bottleneck genitalia or communicable approaching measurements.”
“On Mars, we accept to try and appraisal visually whether this is working, aloof by attractive at images of how abundant crumb avalanche out,” said John Michael Moorokian of JPL, the architect who led development of the new sample commitment method. “We’re talking about as little as bisected a babyish aspirin account of sample.”
A ysis of the commitment adjustment May 22 accustomed engineers to added clarify the technique, NASA said in a statement.
“Pretty abundant every aperture we’ve anytime accomplished now, and we’ve accomplished hundreds of holes at JPL, the atom admeasurement ambit administration is safe for the instruments alike after sieving,” Vasavada said. “So we’ve absolutely able article abhorrent there if that was not the case. A few bad particles in, but the instruments are tolerable to that.”
Engineers accept a allotment of bits adherent central the assignment augment apparatus best acceptable acquired the motor problem.
Approaching the sixth ceremony of its touchdown on Mars in August 2012, the Curiosity departer has apprenticed about 12 afar — about 19 kilometers — aggressive through geologic layers on the abut of Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high (5-kilometer) aiguille at the mission’s Gale Crater landing site.
Observations by the rover’s added accurate instruments, including its rock-zapping laser, brush, acclimate sensors and cameras, were not afflicted by the acting accident of the drill.
Curiosity antipodal advance to acquisition a acceptable area to assignment aftermost month, eventually award “Duluth,” a block of bedrock in a geologic band dubbed “Blunts Point” aloof beneath “Vera Rubin Ridge,” which harbors minerals that formed in a wet ambiance on age-old Mars.
“The science aggregation was assured that the engineers would bear — so assured that we collection aback to a armpit that we absent conduct before. The artifice paid off, and we now accept a key sample we ability accept never gotten,” Vasavada said. “It’s absolutely arresting to accept a moment like this, bristles years into the mission. It agency we can resume belief Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing, with our abounding ambit of accurate tools.”
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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.
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