On Mars, could space debris disrupt the mission of the Perseverance robot?

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On Mars, could space debris disrupt the mission of the Perseve robot ;rance?

NASA

On Earth, many people are feverishly searching and waiting for evidence of extraterrestrial life. This is why any photo taken by the Perseverance robot, currently on a mission to the planet Mars, is analyzed and scrutinized carefully, sometimes a little too much. Recently, a photo of filaments resembling spaghetti had been the subject of much speculation, because the object is not natural… NASA has just announced that it has confirmed that these filaments are nylon debris deposited during the Perseverance landing.

A natural debris collection “center” on Mars

Perseverance, the NASA “rover” landed on the red planet on February 18, 2021. For several months, the robot explored the planet Mars to collect numerous samples, and why not, clues to extraterrestrial life. A eerily spaghetti-like ball of filaments, caught on camera last July, before being blown away by the wind, has been the center of speculation among space and alien enthusiasts. It would be, according to NASA, a piece of net in Dacron, a high tenacity polyester belonging to the thermal shield of Perseverance. Subjected to significant forces, the net seems to have deteriorated until it frayed, which gave it this filamentary appearance. This debris was found near “Hogwallow Flats”, a location that appears to have become a natural collection point for debris from entry, descent and landing (EDL) equipment, which was blown about 2km away. northwest of the landing zones. As more images of the Hogwallow Flats area were sent to Earth, more and more EDL debris was spotted by mining crews.

Des debris could be detrimental to the smooth running of the mission

Despite the fact that the landing was deliberately carried out at a significant distance from the study area, the remains carried by the wind could contaminate the samples taken on site. On July 24, 2022, the operations monitoring team listed about half a dozen suspected EDL debris in this area. Last month, Perseverance had already spotted a shiny piece of metal. To ensure the smooth running of the mission, the researchers say they are studying this debris, which will also improve the preparation of future missions. While there are no immediate issues identified by the teams at this time, the teams are documenting EDL debris materials as they are identified, and are taking the matter very seriously. Additionally, the rover carries a set of control tubes, which are tubes preloaded with materials routinely exposed to Martian environments and to the rover to provide additional documentation of sample cleanliness. Engineers also considered, according to NASA, the possibility that EDL debris could be a source of entanglement risk to the rover and concluded that such risk is low. As Perseverance continues to collect samples for a possible return to Earth, Perseverance imaging teams will continue to examine images from the terrain for possible sources of debris. Sampling teams will also continue to monitor potential sources of contamination to ensure the integrity of the returned sample cache.

How do we avoid space debris from this type of mission?

< p>It should be noted that discarded debris is common in space missions. However, the large amount of remains found seems to worry researchers. To avoid space debris, it would be important for engineers designing descent and landing hardware to consider “the impact of their designs on Mars and the requirements of the mission”.