Perseverance Mars rover hits snag while grabbing 14th rock sample

close up of sample collection tube with rock inside
NASA's Perseverance rover collected its 14th Mars rock sample in October 2022 but is having difficulty sealing it up. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Perseverance rover is having a bit of trouble with its latest Red Planet sample.

Perseverance, which is exploring Jezero Crater on Mars, drilled out and collected its 14th Martian rock sample over the weekend (Oct. 8 and Oct. 9) but was unable to seal it away in its designated tube.

"The sample is stored safely inside my caching assembly, but some work remains to figure out how to cap and seal the tube," mission team members tweeted on Tuesday (Oct. 11).

Related: 12 amazing photos from the Perseverance rover's 1st year on Mars

Perseverance is collecting these Martian samples for a future return to Earth; they could arrive here as early as 2033.

If all goes to plan, Perseverance will deliver its sealed-up tubes to a NASA sample-return lander. A small rocket carried by the lander will launch the tubes into Mars orbit, where they'll be grabbed by an Earth-return spacecraft provided by NASA's partner in the sample return effort, the European Space Agency. (The lander, rocket and Earth-return spacecraft are all in development.)

Perseverance is picking up two samples from each rock it drills. The plan is to keep one set of samples on board and cache the other set in one or more "depots" on Jezero's floor. Should Perseverance have issues moving the rocks to the NASA lander, the sample return mission has a backup: two small "fetch" helicopters will bring the tubes back from the depot(s) one at a time.

See more

Those helicopters will be based on NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, which accompanied Perseverance to the Martian surface in February 2021. Ingenuity is still going strong; it has now completed 33 sorties on Mars, more than six times more than it was initially expected to perform. 

The latest flight for Ingenuity also ran into the unexpected, however. During a flight in late September, a piece of debris fell away harmlessly from one of the chopper's legs mid-flight. The helicopter landed safely, and an investigation is ongoing.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: