March 22, 2023

ExoMars Will be Drilling 1.7 Meters to Pull its Samples From Below the Surface of Mars

In about a year (Sept. 20th, 2021), the Rosalind Franklin rover will depart for Mars. As the most recent objective in the ESAs and Roscosmos ExoMars program, Rosalind Franklin will sign up with the little army of orbiters, landers, and rovers that are working to identify the Martian atmosphere and environment. A key element of the rovers mission will include drilling into the Martian soil and rock and acquiring samples from deep beneath the surface.
To get ready for drilling operations on Mars, the ESA, Italian space firm (ASI), and their business partners have been conducting tests with a replica– aka. the Ground Test Model (GTM). Just recently, the test model finished its first round of sample collection, understood as the Mars Terrain Simulation (MTS). The rover drilled into hard stone and drawn out samples from 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) underneath the surface area in a record-breaking accomplishment.

In about a year (Sept. 20th, 2021), the Rosalind Franklin rover will leave for Mars. An essential aspect of the rovers mission will include drilling into the Martian soil and rock and obtaining samples from deep below the surface area.
The rover drilled into tough stone and drawn out samples from 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) underneath the surface area in a record-breaking task.

Further Reading: ESA.
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The MTS operations are being held at the Rover Operations Control Center (ROCC), located on the Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company (ALTEC) properties in Turin, Italy. These dry runs are generally a dress rehearsal for the surface operations performed by the genuine rover, which is being established in parallel in preparation for launch next year.
The GTM undergoing tests at the ROCC in Turin, Italy. Credit: ESA
To check how Rosalind Franklin will fare in on the Red Planet, the GTM has actually been drilling into a well filled with numerous rocks and soil layers. This takes location on a devoted platform slanted at seven degrees to imitate the sample collection process on sensible, variable surface. The very first sample was acquired from a block of cement clay of medium solidity and was shaped like a pellet measuring about 2 cm long and 1 cm in size (0.787 x 0.39 inches).
Once gathered, Rosalind Franklins drill keeps the sample with a shutter that avoids it from falling out during retrieval. When the drill is totally retracted, the sample is dropped into a drawer in the front of the rover, which deposits the sample and closes into a crushing station. The resulting powder is then distributed to ovens and containers inside created to carry out scientific analysis.
By drilling to a depth of 1.7 meters, the GTM developed a new record for sample collection, as the inmost any mission has actually drilled on Mars to date is 7 cm (2.75 inches). The Rosalind Franklin rover is designed to drill deep as much as 2 meters (6.5 ft) underneath the Martian surface area, the purpose of which is to gain access to any well-preserved organic product that might have moved there from 4 billion years ago and after.
At that time, Mars was a warmer, wetter location where surface area conditions resembled what is believed to have actually existed on Earth around the very same time. With the success of missions like the Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance rovers– which discovered compelling proof for streaming water and organics on the surface area– researchers have been excited to get a peek at the subsurface environment to see if this is where Mars water and possibly life could have pulled back to.
The GMT test drilling rock and soil samples at the ROCC in Italy. Credit: ESA
The long-awaited effective soil collection from a hard stone and its shipment to the lab inside the rover represents a significant milestone for the ExoMars 2022 objective and Mars expedition in basic. As ExoMars task scientist Jorge Vago described:
” The reputable acquisition of deep samples is key for ExoMars main science goal: to investigate the chemical structure– and possible indications of life– of soil that has actually not been subjected to damaging ionizing radiation,”
The drill was established by the aerospace business Leonardo, which also added to creating the ROCC alongside the ESA, ASI, and Thales Alenia Space (the prime contractor for the ExoMars 2022 objective). Relying on an automated assembly of systems, the Rosalind Franklin drill deal with rotation by fitting tools and extension robs to form a “drill string” that allows it to drill to a depth of as much as 2 m (6.5 ft).
The drill likewise has a two-degree of flexibility positioner that allows it to deposit samples at the right angle into the rover laboratory. It can penetrate the ground at 60 rotations per minute (depending upon the consistency of the soil) and go into solid clay products and sandy rock at a rate of 0.3 and 30 mm (0.012 to 1.18 inches) per minute, respectively.
Said ExoMars rover team leader Pietro Baglioni, “The design and building and construction of the drill has been so complex that this first deep drilling is an amazing achievement for the group.”

Another significant obstacle comes from needing to simulate Martian conditions throughout the tests properly. To do this, the GMT must be suspended from the ceiling on a dedicated gravity payment gadget to recreate the result of Martian gravity, which is about 38% that of Earth (0.38 g). However gravity alone does not represent all of the environmental obstacles a robotic rover will need to compete with as soon as its on the surface of Mars.
As Andrea Merlo, ExoMars Rover practical engineer from Thales Alenia Space, discussed:
” Drilling hard stones to a depth of 2 meters on a mobile wheeled platform with less than 100 watts of power is a complicated job. This currently provides engineers a hint on how the system might degrade on Mars.”
In addition to drilling operations, the GTM has actually completed several other tests designed to determine the rovers other abilities. These include the capability to move and identify potential scientific targets while also getting images and information. These dry runs began in June of 2021 and have successfully demonstrated that Rosalind Franklin can follow accurate trajectories and study the surface and subsurface environment.
Once it reaches Mars, the rover will count on its innovative suite of cams, spectrometers, a sub-surface sounding radar, and neutron detector to look for proof that life when existed on Mars (and possibly still does!).

When the drill is completely withdrawed, the sample is dropped into a drawer in the front of the rover, which transfers the sample and closes into a crushing station. Gravity alone does not represent all of the ecological challenges a robotic rover will have to contend with once its on the surface of Mars.