NASA Week of Woes: Why Mars First Sample Failed, Boeing Starliner Launch Delayed Indefinitely

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NASA has seen better weeks.

In a recent report, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said its goal of landing humans on the moon by 2024 under its Artemis program is “not feasible”.

Agency and Boeing officials said on Friday that the much-anticipated Boeing Starliner test flight would be delayed for several months, possibly until 2022.

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The culprit was a valve problem and the Starliner capsule is should be removed and returned to the hangar at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for repairs.

Nine of the 13 moisture-infiltrated valves have been repaired, while four require more work. There are dozens of valves connected to thrusters that are necessary for the mission.

The Starliner was scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) last week, wearing the “Rosie the Rocket” mannequin.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stands on Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Station with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft ready for another unmanned test flight attempt to the Space Station international, Monday August 2. 2021, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The new launch date is scheduled for Tuesday.
(AP Photo / John Raoux)

In a press release, Boeing said it would “unstack its Starliner CST-100 from the Atlas V rocket and return the spacecraft to the Crew and Commercial Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) for further troubleshooting of four valves in the system. propulsion that remain closed after last Tuesday’s clean launch. “

The relocation of the spacecraft, the aerospace company wrote, would force Boeing, NASA and the United Launch Alliance to choose a new launch date once the issue is resolved.

“The success of the mission in human spaceflight depends on thousands of factors brought together at the right time,” John Vollmer, vice president and program director for Boeing’s commercial crew program, said in a statement. “We will continue to work on the issue from the Starliner factory and have decided to withdraw from this launch window to make room for other national priority missions.”

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“We are obviously disappointed,” Vollmer told reporters on Friday. “We will perform this test when we are ready to do it and it is safe to do so.”

Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for exploration and human operations, said the situation was “another example of why these demo missions are so important to us … to make sure the system is wrung out. before putting our crews “.

This composite image of the first borehole drilled by NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars was generated using multiple images taken by the rover's Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering (WATSON) imager.  The borehole is 1.06 inches (2.7 centimeters) in diameter.  A subsystem of the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument, WATSON can document the structure and texture of a drilled target, and its data can be used to derive depth measurements.  The image was taken on the 165th Martian day of mission, or ground, at night to reduce self-shading in the borehole that can occur during daytime imagery.  Some of WATSON's white LEDs illuminated the borehole.  NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and manages perseverance and ingenuity operations for the agency.  Caltech in Pasadena, California manages JPL for NASA.  WATSON was built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego and is jointly operated by MSSS and JPL.

This composite image of the first borehole drilled by NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars was generated using multiple images taken by the rover’s Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering (WATSON) imager. The borehole is 1.06 inches (2.7 centimeters) in diameter. A subsystem of the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument, WATSON can document the structure and texture of a drilled target, and its data can be used to derive depth measurements. The image was taken on the 165th Martian day of mission, or ground, at night to reduce self-shading in the borehole that can occur during daytime imagery. Some of WATSON’s white LEDs illuminated the borehole. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and manages perseverance and ingenuity operations for the agency. Caltech in Pasadena, California manages JPL for NASA. WATSON was built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego and is jointly operated by MSSS and JPL.
(NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS)

A similar capsule experienced software glitches in 2019 that prevented it from reaching the ISS.

“Probably too early to tell if it’s this year or not,” Vollmer said.

Earlier this week, the Perseverance Rover mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were working to determine what went wrong on their first attempt to sample Martian rock and regolith.

The initial belief, according to Perseverance Project Manager Jennifer Trosper, was that the rock target had not responded as expected during coring.

Earlier this week, the researchers said their science and engineering teams believed the rock was to blame.

“The scientific and technical teams believe that the uniqueness of this rock and its material properties are the main[contributors”tothedifficultyofextractingacarrot”declaredLouiseJanduraengineerintheheadoftheJPLforthesamplingandtheuseofthecache[contributors’tothedifficultyinextractingacorefromiseJnganduraCandachingEplean[contributeurs”àladifficultéd’enextraireunecarotte”adéclaréLouiseJanduraingénieureenchefduJPLpourl’échantillonnageetlamiseencache[contributors’tothedifficultyinextractingacorefromit”JPLChiefEngineerforSampleandCachingLouiseJandurawrote in an August 11 blog post.

Figure 1 shows the

Figure 1 shows the “South Séítah” region of Jezero crater, captured by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter on its 11th flight on August 4, 2021. At the bottom center of the image is the shadow of Ingenuity . Above it, towards the top of the frame – just beyond the dune field and to the right of the center – is the Perseverance rover (the bright white dot).
(NASA / JPL-Caltech)

With one attempt under their belt, the team decided to travel to the southern Séítah region of the Jezero crater of the Red Planet.

“Based on rover and helicopter imagery to date, we will likely encounter sedimentary rocks there that we believe will align better with our ground test experience,” Jandura wrote.

The next sampling attempt is scheduled for early September.

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“The material worked as ordered but the rock did not cooperate this time. It reminds me yet again of the nature of exploration. A specific result is never guaranteed, no matter how much you prepare,” a- she declared. “Despite this result, science and engineering have advanced. We completed the first complete stand-alone sequence of our sampling system on Mars within the time constraints of a single Sol. This bodes well for the pace of our remaining science campaign. We look forward to the next sampling attempt at South Seitah, scheduled for early September. “

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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