NASA’s rover on Mars crashes because of gravel

Gravel carried by the Red Planet’s strong gusts recently damaged one of the wind sensors. However, MEDA was still able to track winds in its landing area at Jezero Crater, albeit with decreased sensitivity. This was revealed by José Antonio Rodriguez Manfredi, MEDA principal investigator.

“Currently, the sensor is reduced in capability, but still gives magnitudes of speed and direction,” wrote Rodriguez Manfredi, a scientist at the Spanish Astrobiological Center in Madrid, in an email. SpaceAhad (3/7/2022).

According to the American Space Agency’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which manages the rover, dua wind sensor the size of a ruler in Perseverance surrounded by six individual detectors aimed at providing accurate readings from all directions. Each of the two main wind sensors is mounted on a mast which can be opened to move the sensor away from the rover as it advances.

The car-sized persistence does affect wind currents by their own movement through Mars’ thin atmosphere, JPL officials state. Like all instruments in Perseverance, the wind sensor is designed with redundancy and protection in mind.

“But of course, there are limits to everything.”

For instruments such as MEDA, the limitations are more challenging, as the sensor must be exposed to environmental conditions to record wind parameters. When stronger-than-expected winds lift larger-than-expected gravel, the combination results in damage to several detector elements.

“Neither the predictions nor the experience we have from previous missions predicted such strong winds, or such loose material,” said Rodriguez Manfredi.

Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18, 2021, and, together with a helicopter called Ingenuity, explored ancient river deltas that were probably rich in microbes billions of years ago. In addition to measuring wind, weather and rock composition, the rover retrieves the most promising materials to cache for future sample return missions aimed at sending samples to Earth in the 2030s.

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