Ever break a tool you need for work when you’re 33.9 million miles away from home? Well, NASA’s Mars rover did, and ever since December of 2016, it’s been unable to do its job.
But, after over a year of brainstorming and hacking by the folks over at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the rover is once again hard at work collecting and analyzing samples from the Martian terrain in its onboard laboratory.
Here’s more from DiscoverMagazine:
After testing their techniques on Earth, engineers saw their solution also works on Mars when they penetrated a couple inches into a Red Planet rock named “Duluth” in May.
Engineers call the new technique “feed extended drilling.” It works by pushing the drill bit inches past the stabilizer bars that keep the rover steady. NASA says the new technique works more like a human leaning on a wall to steady themselves as they work.
On Monday, the space agency announced that they’d also succeeding in getting that sample into the rover’s labs for analysis — a huge challenge in itself. The rover’s arm dropped about “half a baby aspirin worth of sample” into two inlets. Curiosity will start running chemistry experiments on the rock this week.
But this hack also makes it harder to tell how much sample is dropped in for analysis. So engineers expect to keep refining the method as they continue remotely climbing and studying Mount Sharp.
“The science team was confident that the engineers would deliver — so confident that we drove back to a site that we missed drilling before,” said Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. “The gambit paid off, and we now have a key sample we might have never gotten.”
This announcement comes just days before a scheduled NASA press conference where officials will announce their most recent findings:
Here’s more from Space.com:
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has apparently found something intriguing on Mars, and the space agency will unveil the discovery Thursday (June 7).
The space agency revealed few details about what will be announced Thursday, but the “live discussion” will feature “new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover,” according to a NASA announcement. Why all the secrecy? “The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then,” NASA wrote in the statement.
That means NASA won’t release any details until the press conference, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Thursday. You can watch the Mars announcement live on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. The space agency did reveal the list of scientists who will be discussing the Mars discovery.
We’ll definitely be tuning in, and we’ll keep you apprised of any major announcements.
What do you think they’ve found?