[meteorite-list] NASA Mars Rover Targets Unusual Rock En Route to First Destination

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2012 08:39:23 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201209201539.q8KFdNvj020027_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

Sept. 19, 2012

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

Guy Webster / D.C. Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov / agle at jpl.nasa.gov

RELEASE: 12-332


PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a
football-size rock that will be the first for the rover's arm to

Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about
halfway from Curiosity's landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a
location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the
rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and
use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the
mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be
used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow
cross-checking of the two instruments.

The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic." Jacob Matijevic
(mah-TEE-uh-vik) was the surface operations systems chief engineer
for Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the project's Curiosity rover.
He passed away Aug. 20, at age 64. Matijevic also was a leading
engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit
and Opportunity.

Curiosity now has driven six days in a row. Daily distances range from
72 feet to 121 feet (22 meters to 37 meters).

"This robot was built to rove, and the team is really getting a good
rhythm of driving day after day when that's the priority," said MSL
Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif.

The team plans to choose a rock in the Glenelg area for the rover's
first use of its capability to analyze powder drilled from interiors
of rocks. Three types of terrain intersect in the Glenelg area -- one
lighter- toned and another more cratered than the terrain Curiosity
currently is crossing. The light-toned area is of special interest
because it retains daytime heat long into the night, suggesting an
unusual composition.

"As we're getting closer to the light-toned area, we see thin, dark
bands of unknown origin," said Mars Science Laboratory Project
Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena. "The smaller-scale diversity is becoming more evident as we
get closer, providing more potential targets for investigation."

Researchers are using Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) to find
potential targets on the ground. Recent new images from the rover's
camera reveal dark streaks on rocks in the Glenelg area that have
increased researchers' interest in the area. In addition to taking
ground images, the camera also has been busy looking upward.

On two recent days, Curiosity pointed the Mastcam at the sun and
recorded images of Mars' two moons, Phobos and Deimos, passing in
front of the sun from the rover's point of view. Results of these
transit observations are part of a long-term study of changes in the
moons' orbits. NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and
Opportunity, which arrived at Mars in 2004, also have observed solar
transits by Mars' moons. Opportunity is doing so again this week.

"Phobos is in an orbit very slowly getting closer to Mars, and Deimos
is in an orbit very slowly getting farther from Mars," said
Curiosity's science team co-investigator Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M
University. "These observations help us reduce uncertainty in
calculations of the changes."

In Curiosity's observations of Phobos this week, the time when the
edge of the moon began overlapping the disc of the sun was
predictable to within a few seconds. Uncertainty in timing is because
Mars' interior structure isn't fully understood.

Phobos causes small changes to the shape of Mars in the same way
Earth's moon raises tides. The changes to Mars' shape depend on the
Martian interior which, in turn, cause Phobos' orbit to decay. Timing
the orbital change more precisely provides information about Mars'
interior structure.

During Curiosity's two-year prime mission, researchers will use the
rover's 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected field
site inside Gale Crater ever has offered environmental conditions
favorable for microbial life.

For more about Curiosity, visit:




You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:




Received on Thu 20 Sep 2012 11:39:23 AM PDT

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