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NASA's rover can't use lasers — a technical problem on Mars

NASA's rover can't use lasers — a technical problem on Mars

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The Perseverance rover could urgently use a mechanic on Mars. Since that is not possible, NASA is looking for other ways to fix it.

PASADENA — Since NASA's newest spacecraft landed on Mars in February 2021, Perseverance has been collecting data on the Red Planet and sending it back to Earth. There have also been some groundbreaking discoveries. For example, the rover has discovered clear evidence of ancient water on Mars or found organic materials on the Red Planet. To do this, Perseverance produced oxygen on Mars using an instrument.

NASA wants to use the Perseverance rover to search for traces of life on Mars

NASA sent the rover to Mars to get a closer look at Jezero Crater, a former lake connected to a river delta where the movie “Perseverance” revealed the history of water on Mars. The rover will investigate the conditions that existed on Mars, and whether there once was life on Mars. To do this, NASA's robot examines rock samples using cameras, spectrometers and lasers, among other things. But now there is a problem with that.

The Sherlock instrument is located at the front of the robotic arm of NASA's Perseverance rover. He uses it to analyze Martian rocks when the machine is running. (File photo) © NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Like NASA Communicates, a team is currently studying a rover instrument called “Sherlock.” It is located at the very front of the “Perseverance” robot arm and consists, among other things, of a laser targeting interesting Martian rocks. Sherlock's camera and spectrometer can analyze rocks – always looking for signs of past water or organic matter.

NASA's Perseverance rover cannot use lasers on Mars

But this does not appear to be possible at the moment, as NASA describes on its website. Currently, one of the two caps that prevent dust from accumulating on the Sherlock lens is partially open. “In this situation, coverage affects scientific data collection,” NASA says. The problem has been present since the beginning of January. “With the cover in its current position, the device cannot use the laser and cannot collect spectral data,” the US space agency wrote.

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A team examined the vehicle to find the cause and possible solutions. In order to better understand how the cap motor behaves, the team sent commands to the device to change the power source. However, no solution has been found yet.

NASA is looking for a solution to the problem of the Perseverance rover on Mars

However, there is a way out for spectral data: it can be collected using Sherlock's color Watson camera. This fact shows that NASA has a lot of experience in designing Mars missions: the Perseverance instruments were developed in such a way that the rover would be able to perform its tasks even if one of the seven instruments malfunctioned. The “Pixl” and “SuperCam” tools can also collect spectral data.

Accordingly, NASA is not panicking, but is instead trying to calmly find a solution to the problem. This is not easy, after all, a mechanic cannot travel to Mars and repair the rover there.

However, there is good news: Perseverance is based on NASA's successful rover Curiosity, which has been conducting research on Mars for more than a decade. If Perseverance has a similar endurance, the rover would still have several years to explore Mars. (unpaid invoice)