Ken Kremer — SpaceUpClose.com — 22 Mar 2018
the first time in more than a year, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover carried out the first tests of a new
drilling technique on Red Planet rock since its drill stopped working reliably in December 2016.
the rover succeeding a drilling to a shallow depth, the results demonstrated
that more testing will be needed because
the hole was not deep enough to collect a sample.
the drill bit and two stabilizers illustrated in our lead mosaic created by the
imaging team of Ken Kremer & Marco Di Lorenzo – backdropped by Mount Sharp
Engineers programmed Curiosity to conduct the initial drill test on
Feb. 26 at a target called ‘Lake Orcadie’ at the six-wheeled robots current location on Vera
“The action produced a hole about a half-inch (1-centimeter)
deep — not enough for a full scientific sample, but enough to validate that
the new method works mechanically,” NASA announced.
“This was just the first in what will be a series of tests to
determine how well the new drill method can collect samples. If this drill had
achieved sufficient depth to collect a sample, the team would have begun
testing a new sample delivery process, ultimately delivering to instruments
inside the rover.”
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used a new drill method to produce a
hole on February 26, 2018 in a target named Lake Orcadie. The hole marks the
first operation of the rover’s drill since a motor problem began acting up more
than a year ago. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
into Mars and was not enough to collect a useable sample for analysis by the
rovers miniaturized pair of Chemistry lab instruments: Sample Analysis at
Mars, or SAM, and Chemistry and Mineralogy, or CheMin.
since landing on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012 inside Gale Crater, but not at all in the
past 14 months.
drill has prevented the robots drill bit from extending and retracting normally.
stabilizers that are used to steady it against the rocket targets. See out lead mosaic from Sol 1912 showing the
drill bit and stabilizers backdropped by Mount Sharp.
drill bit permanently extended out far enough past the stabilizers to drill
deep enough into rocket to collect a usable amount of pulverized samples to
deliver to the two chemistry labs – something it was not designed to do.
any interaction from the stabilizers.
took many months of effort to devise a software solution and then test it on
the nearly identical rover in the Mars yard at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, CA.
is a lot like how we humans use a hand drill here on Earth. The old method is
more like using a drill press.
“We’re now drilling on Mars more like the way you do at
home,” said Steven Lee, deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Humans are pretty good at re-centering
the drill, almost without thinking about it. Programming Curiosity to do this
by itself was challenging — especially when it wasn’t designed to do
Watch this NASA JPL video showing and describing the new
Video Caption: After more than a
year without the use of the Curiosity Mars rover’s drill, engineers have
devised a workaround and tested it for the first time on the Red Planet. More
testing of the drill method is planned for the future. Credit: NASA/JPL
of implementing the new freehand drill technique with the extended drill bit is
that the rover can no longer use the hand mounted CHIMRA (Collection and
Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis) mechanism that sieves, portions and delivers the rock powder to the
this device. The new solution makes Curiosity look as though it is adding
seasoning to its science, shaking out grains from the drill’s bit as if it were
tapping salt from a shaker,” the MSL team said.
Earth’s atmosphere and gravity are very different from that of Mars. Whether
rock powder on Mars will fall out in the same volume and in a controlled way
has yet to be seen.”
to try a full depth drill with the new technique.
over 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometers) since its August 2012 landing inside
Gale Crater from the landing site to the ridge, and taken over 470,000 amazing
ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission
reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force
Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
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