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 (opens in new tab) 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.
Over the weekend, I collected my 14th rock core, but I was unable to seal the sample tube. The sample is stored safely inside my caching assembly, but some work remains to figure out how to cap and seal the tube. #SamplingMars pic.twitter.com/CrcZLBO1Z6October 11, 2022
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 (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).