NASA Perseverance Rover: Threading a Needle on Mars

Abrasion Patch on Rochette

NASA’s Perseverance rover took this image of the Martian rock nicknamed “Rochette” on August 27, 2021, shortly after it abraded a circular patch known as “Bellegarde.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During the solar conjunction period, the project’s science and engineering teams have had time to digest the data from Perseverance collected since the rover landed in Jezero crater. While taking a step back from the normal routines of operating the rover and its fine set of instruments, we had the chance to reflect on what the rover and its team have accomplished.

Perseverance and its team have come a long way over the past 8 months of operation on the surface of Mars. Early in the mission, the team devotes much time and effort planning first-time activities: the first drive, first use of science instruments, and first sample to name a few. These activities and developing efforts to enable them were daunting at first, as they are highly complex, requiring multiple onboard systems to collaborate. Now, it is part of the mission’s normal routine for the rover to collect rock samples and perform proximity science using the instruments mounted on the turret that sits at the end of the robotic arm/manipulator.

Bellegarde Abrasion Patch on Rochette

Image captured of the rock ‘Rochette’ after the target ‘Bellegarde’ was abraded. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robotic arm and turret constitute a highly stable and reliable platform that must support all percussion and abrasion tools while simultaneously supporting the two proximity instruments, PIXL and SHERLOC. Figuring out how to mount all these systems on the same platform was challenging, but with a clever mechanical design, a single shared platform was possible.

From this platform the PIXL instrument conducts its scientific X-ray Fluorescence observations. PIXL emits a focused X-ray beam of about 120 µm in diameter (as thin as a single strand of human hair!) and collects a fingerprint size map scan of measurements. For PIXL to achieve this, it constantly checks and self-adjusts the distance between the instrument and the targeted rock to maintain optimal focus of the X-ray beam. This operation is much like threading a needle – requiring great precision and is performed relentlessly a few thousand times for each scan. Written by David Pedersen, Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument at Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

6 Comments on "NASA Perseverance Rover: Threading a Needle on Mars"

  1. Let’s name our rocks!just like 40 years rocks were sorta popular they were painted bought and sold and some even believed they were there pets!…sorta!!!let’s make Mars rock personalized ,so the gullible earthlings will accept the bs we pump about landing on a dot in space!and hope we don’t run out gas!
    Oh sh*t,no gas stations in space!

  2. Oh sh*t we ran out fuel,well never find earth again..byeeeee!!!
    So you think we can get to a moving dot in space,millions of miles away and return and find another moving dot in space called earth, just how gullible are you,the brains beleives what it sees,phycology 101!

  3. It must be a sad life for some people, they don’t seem to want to dream or explore, instead they believe conspiracy theories and that human kind cannot possibly go to other planets.
    Personally I believe that we have and are continuing to explore Mars and other parts of out solar system.

  4. We returned rocks from an asteroid. It just takes planning and preparation. We landed on the Moon and came in back. the landing and returning will be solved

  5. I feel sorry for you rocky. You clearly have no understanding of science and the composition of rocks on how materials are formed. Maybe educate yourself so you can make an educated comment. 😉

  6. This is not a comment I think America is a travesty we don’t explore space sad that we can’t build something to send them the astronauts to some of these planets Do you want to know why that’s because all NASA has sold out to rich instead of coming together as a race of people for one single goal to explore the cosmos will instead we sit in front of TV and eat potato chips! When other humans people like us see the bigger picture we don’t even have a space program just private rich and only the privilege I hope people read this message maybe just maybe I can get to just a few of you to see my dream that everybody stops putting down them weapons and start coming together as a race of people not with petty grobbel’s in this world

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