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  • Hey it's me Destin

  • welcome back to Smarter Every Day.

  • This is my drill press.

  • Out of all things that humans could send up to Mars

  • on a nuclear powered robot,

  • a drill was one of the most important things we sent.

  • And the reason we did this,

  • well think about this.

  • This is the board and you've seen tree rings right?

  • If we were to drill into this board,

  • and then analyze the shavings that come out of that hole,

  • because of the tree rings we could go back in time and understand

  • what was going on in this board when the tree was younger right?

  • That's exactly why they sent a drill to Mars.

  • We want to understand if there were organic molecules

  • inside the rocks of Mars when they formed.

  • But in order to do that you have to drill below the surface

  • and then analyze the powder.

  • But every article I've ever read about the drill

  • and about how they analyze the powder

  • doesn't really satisfy me.

  • So today on Smarter Every Day

  • I'm at JPL.

  • This is Mark Rober.. Crazy!

  • He's gonna give me a tour of what?

  • - Uh OK.

  • - You missed your cue.

  • - Sorry. [laughs]

  • - We've gotta start over, he missed his cue.

  • - I just realized..

  • - This is my buddy Mark.

  • You remember all that fancy rocket business where we

  • descended the curiosity rover down to the Martian surface

  • with these fancy rocket cranes?

  • Yeah he helped work on that.

  • But more importantly he owes me a ton of favors

  • so I asked him if he could introduce me to the

  • people behind the drill on the rover.

  • I wanted to understand exactly how this thing works.

  • - So we are going to the Mars yard,

  • which basically is a simulation of the Martian surface.

  • - Yeah look both ways before you cross the street and go to Mars.

  • - Behold.. Mars!

  • - So this is the Curiosity garage?

  • - Yeah, so they'll bring it out here in the yard

  • You can see here's the tracks.

  • But then when they're just working on something inside

  • they bring it back into the shack.

  • - Wow. Oh man so is this the only one?

  • Is this one of a kind?

  • - It's one of a kind.

  • The only one on planet Earth.

  • - I guess it's two of a kind.

  • I'm Destin, what's your name?

  • - Megan.

  • - Can I shake your hand from a long way away?

  • Nice to meet you Megan.

  • You're running the test?

  • - I'm running it right now, yeah.

  • - That's pretty awesome.

  • He hasn't let you talk at all,

  • but I really want to talk to you but there's a rover in between us.

  • This duplicate of the curiosity rover exists

  • so scientists and engineers can test software

  • and tricky manoeuvres without having to risk damage

  • to actual flight hardware.

  • OK we decided to quit messing around

  • and Megan's actually gonna tell us what the tools are.

  • You know all the tools right?

  • - I know a lot about the drill and the Chimra since I tested them.

  • - Yeah?

  • - So this is kind of the butt end of the drill right here.

  • - Can I walk over there?

  • - You can come over here.

  • - I will. So you're clipped in, right?

  • - I am clipped in..

  • - To the grounding point, OK.

  • - And so this what you see right here

  • we call Chimra,

  • I have no idea what that acronym is..

  • - It's basically the tool belt right?

  • - This is the sample processing.

  • - OK I really need to apologize right now,

  • because I started geeking out so hard

  • because I was in the room with the rover,

  • that I forgot I was making a YouTube video.

  • And I started asking questions and they were

  • awesome questions, and then they let me run a command

  • on the mast, and I moved it around.

  • It was incredible.

  • Anyway, I went back and I tried to summarize

  • everything I learned while I was offline in this one take.

  • I'm so sorry.

  • So this is the main mast which is the RSM.

  • Which stands for what?

  • - Remote Sensing Mast.

  • - OK and there's two probes on the side here

  • and these are both for weather.

  • One of them on Mars actively doesn't work at this moment in time.

  • Because it didn't work at landing right?

  • OK so this is the arm here that I'm using to gather

  • samples on Mars,

  • and it uses Megan's drill bit, right,

  • - The official name.

  • - The official name. So that's the drill bit,

  • and it should have enough life to meet our primary

  • objectives on Mars, and after that goes bad for whatever reason

  • if we want some icing on the cake then you've got

  • two extra drill bits located down here that you can

  • autonomously swap out.

  • - Correct.

  • - And that'd be the first time that's ever been done on a different planet.

  • And it's gonna happen cause you worked on it right?

  • - I want it to happen.

  • It would be really awesome to see.

  • - Excellent. So over here,

  • looking at the samples.

  • So before we decide what samples we're gonna analyze by putting them in this little hole right here

  • we can put the samples on the plate,

  • we can measure their size, both by the fiducials there on the checkerboard

  • or by dropping it through that funnel right?

  • - Right.

  • - And then once we do that,

  • we can then, if it meets the critera we can

  • put it in this hole and analyze it.

  • And after you analyze it you dump it overboard.

  • - Yep.

  • - Did I get it all right?

  • - Yep.

  • - You're a good teacher.

  • Clearly Megan's a genius,

  • however there were still some questions that I had.

  • I wanted to understand the exact interaction

  • between drill bit and rock.

  • Which is why I came to see Ryan.

  • What's your title?

  • - Drill systems engineer.

  • - So what's this right here?

  • What do you have?

  • - This is a drill bit assembly.

  • - OK.

  • - This is not only our drill bit,

  • which if you take a closer look this is a masonry bit,

  • it's not like the cutting bits that you have on

  • your handheld carpentry drill.

  • It's more of a chisel and it's designed for impact drilling.

  • - OK. So how does it work?

  • - So first we set our drill,

  • preload our drill stabilizers against the rock

  • to make sure that we have a nice stable configuration.

  • Then we feed forward until we contact the rock.

  • - OK.

  • - We start our drilling operation with a process we call start hole.

  • So if you can imagine, if we're on a rock and not perfectly aligned

  • and there's all these surface features,

  • little divots on the rock,

  • the bit's gonna want to walk around

  • Imagine like if you're trying to cut metal

  • you usually put a little pilot hole before you start drilling.

  • - So you don't break the bit,

  • Is that the same reason you do it here?

  • - Yeah, so we have a process we call start hole

  • that starts the first 5mm of our hole

  • and basically what we're doing is chiselling little divots to carve out an asterisk shape.

  • [hammer drill sound]

  • Then we drill that out and we repeat that process

  • as many times as it takes to get down to 5mm.

  • Then we have a good starting point for the rest of our drilling.

  • [hammer drill sound]

  • It's not the rotation that's really cutting the rock

  • so much, it's really the hammering action.

  • [hammer drill]

  • Like a jackhammer and then the rotation we do is mainly

  • for drawing the powder up through the sheath.

  • We continuously drill until we bottom out the drill.

  • Literally we're bumping up the front face of the

  • drill bit assembly against the rock.

  • Before we drill we do a triage,

  • we drill a little bit so we can see what the powder is going to look like

  • because we are worried about if it turns out

  • that this material has, it's hydrated and it's

  • somewhat sticky then it could clog up our drill bit assembly.

  • - Is it, on Mars?

  • - It can be, and that's one of the interesting

  • science findings recently is that there's a water cycle,

  • an active water cycle near the surface of Mars

  • even at Gale Crater.

  • - Do you have any of the drill bits that are outside of the drill head?

  • - Not with me here but I can show you one at my desk

  • if you're interested in seeing what that looks like.

  • I have a 3D printed model of this where the bit itself is metal but the rest

  • of the housing is clear plastic so you can see through.

  • - No way, can we go do that?

  • - Yeah.

  • - So what you drill, you auger the material up into this right,

  • this housing?

  • - Exactly. Yeah into the first of our two chambers within the drill bit assembly.

  • So we have two chambers in the drill bit assembly specifically

  • so that it gives us some freedom to be able to move the

  • robotic arm around without worrying about spilling

  • material back out through the exit tube before we're ready

  • to transfer it.

  • So once we draw it into the first chamber it's in that first chamber

  • until we transfer it through this little slot you can see here.

  • - Yeah.

  • - So we transfer it through that slot.

  • We use percussion to shake things up

  • and we use gravity to control which direction the stuff is going.

  • - So that's the mass flow you were talking about.

  • - Yeah.

  • - Can I pretend to be the robotic arm for a second?

  • - Please.

  • - Yeah OK so basically you've got that slot,

  • and so you want to keep that slot down

  • so you want to go drill,

  • and then you pick it up and as long as that slot's

  • up top then you keep all your sample right?

  • - That's right.

  • - OK and so then at that point

  • whenever you get it to where it needs to go you can then

  • rotate it over and then dump it through that little slot right there

  • into the next chamber?

  • No wait back this way right?

  • - That's right.

  • - OK so you kinda..

  • - Through the slot to the second chamber.

  • - Almost bumped, almost into your hand like this right?

  • Nope, then you rotate again and it goes out that port.

  • - That's right.

  • [drill]

  • - OK so we've drilled our rock and now we've got the powder

  • on the inside of the rock.

  • In a very specific circumstance if you find a special rock

  • and you think you might actually have organic molecules

  • on the inside of that rock, you've got to baseline your instruments.

  • In order to do this, JPL got pretty clever.

  • They put these cans on the front of the rover

  • to be used only in certain circumstances.

  • I'm gonna let Megan explain what they're for.

  • So in these cans there's what's called OCM

  • which is organic check material?

  • - Yep that's right.

  • - OK and so the idea is you have a known sample that you can test

  • on Mars so that you can make sure that your sensors are operating correctly.

  • - Right.

  • - And so that's basically the same thing like the color pallete back there

  • so that you can check that your cameras are working correctly,

  • this is the same thing for your sensors

  • to see if you have life on Mars.

  • - Right, for the instruments. For whatever science tool they want.

  • - So you say that's organic,

  • so that's pieces that were alive?

  • - If you're looking for organics on Mars

  • and you think you've found organics