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NASA’s Perseverance rover has overcome its latest challenge on Mars: ejecting pebbles from its bit carousel.
The pebbles first became lodged in the rover on December 29, when the rover was extracting a sample from a Martian rock nicknamed Issole. When the rover was moving the bit containing the sample, sample tube 261, to the bit carousel, the rover sensed more resistance than usual.
Once it noticed the resistance, the rover halted the operation and waited for NASA scientists to give it further instructions. The team on earth located four pebbles stuck inside the rover.
NASA said it first decided to dump the sample from tube 261 back onto its home planet, with the plan to dislodge the pebbles and then try to core Issole again.
Last week, NASA took careful steps to dislodge some of the pebbles. First, the team imaged the bit carousel and its pebbles, as well as the ground underneath the rover, using the WATSON camera.
After imaging the bit carousel, the NASA team rotated the bit carousel about 75º and then returned it to its original position. Afterwards, WATSON showed that two pebbles had been dislodged from the bit carousel.
The team also successfully cleared tube 261 by turning the tube upside down and shaking it for 208 seconds.
While two pebbles remain below the carousel bit, tests done on Earth show that the pebbles might not create significant problems for the rover. NASA is still working to confirm this on Mars.
The NASA team hopes to get Perseverance back on track exploring the Jezero Crater and collecting rock samples soon.
NASA launched the Perseverance rover in July of 2020 and it made its landing on Mars in February 2021. Perseverance is exploring the Jezero crater. In September 2021, the rover cored its first rock sample on Mars.