Perseverance’s instruments stop working: NASA is trying to find a solution

The Perseverance rover has a problem with one of its instruments, the SHERLOC laser, which is covered with a lid to protect it from the harsh conditions on Mars when not in use. Unfortunately, the lid stopped closing, which could cause dust accumulation on the sensitive optics. This problem limits the use of the laser to analyze minerals on rocks, and has also blocked other instruments. NASA engineers are studying this problem in order to find a solution.

Perseverance uses its robotic arm to explore the rocky outcrop with the Mastcam-Z camera system. SHERLOC is located at the end of the arm. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

SHERLOC, the instrument for searching for organic compounds and modified minerals, has two dust covers. In addition, it includes a context camera, a WATSON color camera for detailed rock study, and a spectrometer. SHERLOC’s goal is to scan the surface of Mars in order to detect organic materials.

Recently it became known that one of the SHERLOC covers was stuck in such a position that some functions of the instrument were unavailable. Although the WATSON color camera is still working, the laser, spectrometer and context camera have lost their functionality. Engineers have already tried various commands to fix the situation.

SHERLOC uses deep ultraviolet Raman & Luminescence spectroscopy to analyze objects at a distance of several centimeters. During the mission, it discovered a large amount of organic materials on Mars. Even if the problem with SHERLOC cannot be solved, other Perseverance instruments such as PIXL and SuperCam can perform similar spectroscopy functions.

Although it has been almost three years since Perseverance landed on Mars, the rover continues to carry out its mission. It actively studies geology, climate and searches for traces of past microbial life. By collecting rock and regolith samples, it prepares for a future mission to return samples to Earth. Even if the problem with SHERLOC remains unresolved, Perseverance can continue its scientific work thanks to other instruments on board.

Earlier, we reported on how Perseverance received encouraging results from the search for life at the bottom of the Jezero crater.

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