[meteorite-list] Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:36:38 -0700 (PDT)
Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 12, 2012
* Say 'Ahh' on Mars <#1>
* Portrait of APXS on Mars <#2>
* Hello, MAHLI <#3>
* Getting Ready for Sampling on Mars <#4>
* Opening and Closing SAM <#5>
* Calibrating APXS on Mars <#6>
* Martian Sand Grains on Penny <#7>
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Curiosity team has almost finished
robotic arm tests in preparation for the rover to touch and examine its
first Martian rock.
Tests with the 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm have allowed the mission team to
gain confidence in the arm's precise maneuvering in Martian temperature
and gravity conditions. During these activities, Curiosity has remained
at a site it reached by its most recent drive on Sept. 5. The team will
resume driving the rover this week and use its cameras to seek the first
rock to touch with instruments on the arm.
"We're about to drive some more and try to find the right rock to begin
doing contact science with the arm," said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity
mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Two science instruments -- a camera called Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)
that can take close-up, color images and a tool called Alpha Particle
X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) that determines the elemental composition of a
target rock -- have passed preparatory tests at the rover's current
location. The instruments are mounted on a turret at the end of the arm
and can be placed in contact with target rocks.
Curiosity's Canadian-made APXS had taken atmospheric readings earlier,
but its first use on a solid target on Mars was this week on a
calibration target brought from Earth. X-ray detectors work best cold,
but even the daytime APXS tests produced clean data for identifying
elements in the target.
"The spectrum peaks are so narrow, we're getting excellent resolution,
just as good as we saw in tests on Earth under ideal conditions," said
APXS principal investigator Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph, in
Ontario, Canada. "The good news is that we can now make high-resolution
measurements even at high noon to support quick decisions about whether
a sample is worthwhile for further investigations."
The adjustable-focus MAHLI camera this week has produced sharp images of
objects near and far.
"Honestly, seeing those images with Curiosity's wheels in the
foreground and Mount Sharp in the background simply makes me cry," said
MAHLI principal investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems
in San Diego. "I know we're just getting started, but it's already been
an incredible journey."
MAHLI is also aiding evaluation of the arm's ability to position its
tools and instruments. Curiosity moved the arm to predetermined "teach
points" on Sept. 11, including points above each of three inlet ports
where it will later drop samples of soil and powdered rock into
analytical instruments inside the rover. Images from the MAHLI camera
confirmed the placements. Photos taken before and after opening the
inlet cover for the chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) analytical
instrument also confirmed good operation of the cover.
"Seeing that inlet cover open heightens our anticipation of getting the
first solid sample into CheMin in the coming weeks," said CheMin
principal investigator David Blake of NASA's Ames Research Center in
Moffett Field, Calif.
A test last week that checked X-rays passing through an empty sample
cell in CheMin worked well. It confirmed the instrument beneath the
inlet opening is ready to start analyzing soil and rock samples.
Curiosity is five weeks into a 2-year prime mission on Mars. It will use
10 science instruments to assess whether the selected field site inside
Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for
For more about Curiosity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook
and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and
Guy Webster / D.C. Agle 818-354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov / agle at jpl.nasa.gov
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwane.c.brown at nasa.gov
Received on Wed 12 Sep 2012 06:36:38 PM PDT