Team evaluates SHERLOC instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover

NASA’s Perseverance puts its robotic arm to work around a rock outcropping called “Skinner Ridge” in a series of images captured in June and July 2022 by the rover’s Mastcam-Z camera system. SHERLOC is mounted at the end of the arm. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

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Engineers work to stabilize the dust cover of one of the scientific instrument’s cameras.

Data and images from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover indicate that one of the two covers that prevent dust from accumulating on the SHERLOC instrument’s optics remains partially open. In this position, the cover interferes with scientific data collection operations.

Mounted on the rover’s robotic arm, SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) uses cameras, a spectrometer and a laser to search for organic compounds and minerals that have been altered in aqueous environments and could be signs of the past. microbial life.

The mission determined on January 6 that the cover was oriented in such a position that some of its modes of operation could not function properly. A team of engineers conducted an investigation to determine the root cause and possible solutions. Recently the lid partially opened. To better understand the behavior of the lid motor, the team sent commands to the instrument that changed the amount of energy supplied to it.

With the cover in its current position, the instrument cannot use its laser on rock targets and cannot collect spectroscopic data. However, imaging microscopy can still be acquired with WATSON, a color camera on SHERLOC used to take close-up images of rock grains and surface textures. WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) works through a different aperture.

SHERLOC is part of a suite of seven instruments on Perseverance. During mission development, the team designed the instrument suite such that the rover could still achieve its science objectives in the event of a single instrument failure, as there is some overlap between the capabilities of the instruments. Besides SHERLOC, PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry) and SuperCam also perform spectroscopies.

Currently en route to explore an area nicknamed “Beehive Geyser,” the rover marked its 1,000th Martian day, or sol, on the Red Planet on December 12, 2023, more than 300 sols beyond its original primary mission. Since the rover’s landing on February 18, 2021, SHERLOC has scanned and provided rich data on 34 rock targets, creating a total of 261 hyperspectral maps of these targets.

Featuring a radioisotope power system, Perseverance’s design is based on the agency’s Curiosity Mars rover, which is still going strong after more than 11 years (4,000 sols) on the Red Planet.

Quote: Team evaluating the SHERLOC instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover (February 13, 2024) retrieved February 13, 2024 from

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