NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has begun testing soil samples again. It’s the first time the rover has received a fresh sample into its mineralogy laboratory in over a year.
The rover’s drill was left inoperable following a fault with the Rover in late 2016. However, engineers at JPL managed to return the drill to action utilising a method they refer to “feed extended drilling”. Once the rover could begin drilling sample holes again, the engineers required a method to transport the sample to the rover’s two onboard laboratories.
On Monday, NASA officials announced that the Mars Curiosity rover had successfully transferred a sample to its mineralogy laboratory utilizing the “feed extended sample transfer” method. Staggeringly, JPL engineers have managed to recover the rover’s full functionality despite being 54.6 million kilometers away.
“This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off,” said project manager of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, Jim Erickson. “JPL’s engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016.”
JPL engineers will continue to refine both the new drilling and sample transfer methods in the coming weeks. They will also begin testing sample transfers to the rover’s chemistry laboratory.
Featured image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS