Click for full image.
The Perseverance science team today announced its near-future plans for where it will send the rover, but also when and how it will attempt its next core sample drilling.
The map to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows the rover’s future route. The red dot indicates its present location. The blue dot indicates where next they will attempt to drill. The route shows that they have decided to also make a short side trip south, an target that until now was considered optional.
As for what they plan to do in that next drill attempt:
We will first abrade the selected rock and use the science instruments to confirm (to the best of our ability) that the new target is likely to result in a core after the sampling process.
If we choose to sample the rock, Perseverance will perform a set of activities very close to what was done on the prior coring target. The main difference will be, after coring, we’ve added a “ground in the loop” session to review the images of the tube in the bit and confirm a sample was collected. Then, the tube will be transferred into the rover for processing.
If post-coring imagery shows no sample in the tube, we may elect to try again, using an alternate geometry (e.g. more horizontal) for the coring activity. Another option, if the targeted rock doesn’t allow for a change in geometry, is to look for a different rock in this region that is more easily cored horizontally.
They really want to get a sample of this particular bedrock on the floor of Jezero Crater. Their problem is that the first core sample failed because the bedrock was too structurally weak, crumbled into powder during drilling, and thus poured out of the drillbit once retracted from the ground. It could be that this will be a consistent issue with any sample attempts in this bedrock. This is why they are also considering drilling sideways, in order to hold any material they grab.
I suspect that the short side trip south might be to an outcrop that the rover could drill sideways into. Thus, if they are successful in getting a sample at the blue dot they might still cancel that side trip.
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