The Mars 2020 coring drill will generate a significant amount of dust and debris (known as fines) due to the volume of milled material displaced by the corer's annulus. These cuttings must be removed to ensure that the drill does not jam. The typical method involves fluids, which may not work on Mars due to the atmospheric conditions.
The proposed solution is to use a chain drive through a tube to convey dust and fines. The catch features on the chain push the dust and fines through the tube (see figure). The chain is compliant, which allows it to maneuver in any angle within a certain allowable bend radius. The concept was successfully demonstrated using a ball chain to transport dust through a tube.
This work was done by Donald B. Bickler and Charles M. Dandino of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA is seeking partners to further develop this technology through joint cooperative research and development. For more information about this technology and to explore opportunities, please contact Dan Broderick at