Is it not very likely that most of the material that could contain possible biosignatures, like clays and carbonate containing minerals, will be below a layer of dust or regolith on Mars ?

That the material the rover can examine on the surface is 'only' the top of the iceberg ?

The RIMFAX radar imager onboard Perseverance could help in localizing such material below the surface.

But because of the low gravity on Mars, digging to the possible biosignatures would be difficult because a traditional excavator would not provide enough reaction force to penetrate into the regolith.


Credits: NASA Kennedy Space Center

From this article:

RASSOR uses counterrotating bucket drums on opposing arms to provide near-zero horizontal and minimal vertical net reaction force so that excavation is not reliant on the traction or weight of the mobility system to provide a reaction force to counteract the excavation force in low-gravity environments.


Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

On the image above from this article you can see the scoops around the circumference of the cylinders.

So with some modifications, like brushes on the drums to remove the lowest part of a dust or regolith layer from a layer with possible biosignatures, would RASSOR not be very suitable to assist Perseverance ?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For removing the smaller sized components of regolith it most likely would be beneficial. The query I have is what happens when the RASSOR encounters larger rocks, as it will? $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 17, 2021 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Fred I think with brushes Rassor could clean the rock and Perseverance could examine it. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Oct 17, 2021 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Fred Yes, RASSOR would have to be sensitive enough not to damage the scoops. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Oct 17, 2021 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Not damaging the RASSOR with defensive mechanisms is one thing & it is a good design feature. The other aspect of encountering large rocks is progress in removing regolith at a location with large rocks potentially stops because the RASSOR most likely won't be able to deal the rocks, by either getting rid of it via its mechanisms or by moving it out of the way. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 18, 2021 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ I get the impression, from reading many posts here, that some people think that lunar & Martian regolith is small sized material; effectively sand & maybe some pebbles, where in fact all lunar regolith & much of Mars' regolith is the result of impact crater ejected material. The size distribution of such material ranges from dust sized particles to boulders and it's all mixed up with one lot of ejected material covering another lot, or more. ... $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 18, 2021 at 4:50


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