NASA’s Perseverance Rover finally “spit” a bit of Mars rock from its main sampling tube. This allowed it to keep searching for signs of ancient life. 

Since February 20,21, the SUV-sized vehicle is on Red Planet. It slowly traverses the Jezero Crater collecting rock samples to be later retrieved. 

NASA engineers realized that the rock they were trying to retrieve from a rock was not going into its storage. They tried retrieving it again on Dec 29.

The problem was caused when a piece of debris about the size a pebble blocked the robot arm’s entrance to the area for tube docking. It was solved almost one month later. 

NASA employed an unknown ‘un-choking’ procedure. This involved rotating the drill with a test tube clogged towards the ground, and then rotating the device at high speed. 

These pebbles then fell off and returned to the Red Planet. The tube was even preserved for another sampling mission. 

NASA's Perseverance rover finally 'spit out' a piece of Mars rock that had clogged its main sampling tube, allowing it to continue searching for ancient signs of life

NASA’s Perseverance spacecraft finally managed to’spit’ some Mars rock which had blocked its main sampling channel, thus allowing the rover to search for ancient signs and life. 

On December 29, while retrieving a sample from a rock, its sixth so far, NASA engineers found they couldn't get the rock to go into the storage area

NASA engineers discovered that they could not get the rock into their storage facility after removing a sample of a rock from which to retrieve it on December 29.

Engineers captured the moment that the rover “spat out” the debris with the Mastcam Z science camera.

As small bits of rock tumble out from the end of the tube one at a time, you can see how the drill is rotating in the video.

‘In order to keep #SamplingMars, I’ve emptied my latest partial sample,’ NASA tweeted as Perseverance, adding ‘thankfully, I can reuse this tube for another sample from the same rock.’

NASA first started the process of fixing the problem on January 15, when the team performed this experiment, using Perseverance’s rotary-percussive drill. 

This was due to a pebble-sized piece of debris obstructing the robotic arm, blocking the entrance to the tube docking area - nearly a month later, this has been solved

The problem was caused when a piece of debris about the size and shape of pebbles blocked the robot arm’s entrance to the area for tube docking. It was solved almost one month later.

After orienting the drill to nine degrees above horizontal so the tube was open, the robot arm set it up to spin, and then spilt some rocks. 

NASA stated that a tiny amount of sample material fell out of the drill bit/sample tubes in the imagery of the experiment.

‘Later that same Martian day, the bit was positioned vertically over “Issole” (the rock that provided this latest core) to see if additional sample would fall out under the force of gravity,’ but some of the rock remained.

Two days later, the WATSON camera was pointed at the carousel that had become clogged with pebbles to determine how much debris still remained.

'In order to keep #SamplingMars, I’ve emptied my latest partial sample,' NASA tweeted as Perseverance, adding 'thankfully, I can reuse this tube for another sample from the same rock'

‘In order to keep #SamplingMars, I’ve emptied my latest partial sample,’ NASA tweeted as Perseverance, adding ‘thankfully, I can reuse this tube for another sample from the same rock’

NASA used an untested 'un-choking procedure', that involved pointing the drill containing a clogged test tube towards the ground and rotating it at high speed

NASA utilized an untested “un-choking” procedure. It involved turning the drill that contained a test tube full of clogs at high speed, and then pointing it toward the ground. 


Ever since landing on Mars in 2021 in February, Perseverance is: 

  • Driving Distance: 1.8 mi 
  • We have six samples of rock 
  • For the longest driving distance in one day, set a new record 
  • Breaked the Mars rover record 
  • We have accumulated more than 50 gigabytes in data 
  • Taken 100,000 images 
  • Taken two selfies 
  • Produced 50 grams oxygen 

The rover also snapped images to determine exactly what was below it. 

Two of the top pebbles fell off when they tried to rotate the carousel at 75 degrees. 

A few days later the other two pebbles located under the bit carousel appeared.   

NASA engineers posted a blog entry stating that this is the sixth time that a core has been taken from rock samples on another planet than Earth.

This was the original anomaly that prevented the Rover from keeping the sample tube. It occurred in December during the “Coring Bit Dropoff” event.

Here the drill bit is positioned with the sample tube inside and the just-cored sample out at the end. 

The bit traveled 5.15 inches when processing rock samples from the past before the sensors of the Rover recorded the expected resistance levels.

The resistance came in this instance 0.4 inches sooner than was expected and at a higher level than is normal.

Because they had to work through restricted Sols, where there were data blackouts and longer delays in transmitting information between worlds, it took them weeks to resolve.  

The anomaly occurred during 'Coring Bit Dropoff', according to NASA, which is when the drill bit, with sample tube and just-cored sample inside, is guided out of the drill at the end of the robotic arm, and into the bit carousel on the rover's chassis

NASA says the anomaly happened during “Coring Bit Dropoff”, which refers to when the drill bit with the sample tube and cored sample is moved out of the robot arm and into the bit carousel. 

These fragments are believed to be cored rocks that were in the tube during Coring Bit Dropoff. They also prevented the bit’s connection with the carousel. 

The engineers stated that the designers of the bit-carousel took into account the possibility of continuing to operate successfully with debris.  

The team was pleased to be able “shake it off”, and said that they had followed the protocols before they launched. They also reported their success. 

The SUV-sized rover touched down on Mars' Jezero Crater in February 2021, following a seven minutes of terror descent to the Martian surface

Following seven minutes on terror descent to Mars’ surface in the Martian atmosphere, the SUV-sized Rover reached Mars’ Jezero Crater in Feb 2021.

The team is confident that these are fragments of the cored rock that fell out of the sample tube at the time of Coring Bit Dropoff, and that they prevented the bit from connecting properly with the carousel

They are believed to be fragments from the cored rock which fell out of the tube during Coring Bit Dropoff. This prevented the bit’s connection with the carousel.

Perseverance’s Mars mission is focused on astrobiology and the discovery of signs of ancient microbes.  

It will provide information about the past and geology of Mars, open the door to human exploration, and it will be the first mission ever to locate and preserve Martian regolith and rock.

Although the rover will not return samples to Earth with its collection, it will collect them in order for a joint NASA-ESA mission later this decade. 


NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, launched by NASA in 2020, was designed to find signs of early life on Mars in order to aid scientists in better understanding how Earth evolved in its earliest years.

Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover is exploring an ancient river delta within the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600ft deep lake.

It is believed that the region hosted microbial life some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago and the rover will examine soil samples to hunt for evidence of the life.

Nasa's Mars 2020 rover (artist's impression) is searching for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet

Nasa’s Mars 2020 Rover (artist’s impression) searches for evidence of life from Mars to aid scientists in better understanding how our planet evolved.

The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 spaceship launched on July 30 with the rover and helicopter inside – and landed successfully on February 18, 2021.

Perseverance reached the top of the crater to collect small samples, which are then returned to Earth.

The European Space Agency will partner with the European Space Agency to fly a second mission to Mars and bring back the samples.

This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA's 'sky-crane' system

This concept artwork shows Mars 2020’s landing on Mars using NASA’s Sky-crane system