NASA’s Curiosity rover might quickly be drilling rocks on Mars once more.
Engineers have been working for the previous yr to revive the rover’s full drilling capabilities, which have been hampered in 2016 attributable to a mechanical downside. Later this weekend, they will be including percussion to a new technique already in use on Mars.
This new technique is known as Feed Extended Drilling, or FED. It lets Curiosity drill extra like the best way an individual would at residence, utilizing the pressure of its robotic arm to push its drill bit ahead because it spins. The new model of FED provides a hammering pressure to the drill bit.
The drill was examined with the FED method with out percussion on the finish of February. It did not efficiently produce a rock sample, however did present beneficial outcomes for engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Data from the percussive assessments, at the moment deliberate for Saturday evening, will assist them proceed to refine the drill method over the approaching months.
“This is our subsequent large take a look at to revive drilling nearer to the best way it labored earlier than,” stated Steven Lee, Curiosity deputy mission supervisor at JPL. “Based on the way it performs, we will fine-tune the method, attempting issues like growing the quantity of pressure we apply whereas drilling.”
The technique has been to prototype these new strategies whereas on the go, Lee stated. If percussive drilling efficiently produces a pattern this week, the workforce will instantly start testing a brand new course of for delivering that pattern to the rover’s inside laboratories. In the meantime, engineers at JPL will proceed tweaking the prolonged drilling method. At the identical time, they’re creating new methods to enhance the drill’s efficiency.
This week’s take a look at will serve double responsibility by probably producing essential science, stated Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. The rover has been making its means alongside Vera Rubin Ridge towards an uphill space enriched in clay minerals that the science workforce is keen to discover. In anticipation of having the ability to get hold of samples, the rover reversed route in mid-April, heading towards a location simply downhill from the ridge.
“We’ve purposely pushed backwards as a result of the workforce believes there’s excessive worth in drilling a definite type of rock that makes up a 200-foot-thick [about 60 meters]layer under the ridge,” Vasavada stated. “We’re fortuitously ready to drive again a brief means and nonetheless decide up a goal on the highest of this layer.”
The rock kind would fill a niche within the science workforce’s information about Mount Sharp; they’d finally like to investigate samples of all the foremost rock sorts they encounter with the rover’s laboratories.
“Every layer of Mount Sharp reveals a chapter in Mars’ historical past. Without the drill, our first go by this layer was like skimming the chapter. Now we get an opportunity to learn it intimately,” Vasavada added.
Mars rover mission progresses toward resumed drilling
For extra details about Curiosity, go to www.nasa.gov/curiosity