Curious but complex

NASAs Curiosity rover has been having a slight breather having driven over 100 m from the Bradbury landing site.

Map showing the route driven so far by Curiosity. After testing several instruments, the rover will continue heading east to Glenelg (red). The numbers in white indicate the day on which each stage of the drive was made (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona).

This pause has provided engineers with an important opportunity to fully extend and test the rovers 2m long robotic arm. The end of the arm contains a selection of tools that will be used to scoop soil, drill rocks, and process and deliver samples to the many analytical instruments also on board. Weighing 30 kg, testing the arm ensures that it can operate as planned in Martian temperatures and, perhaps more importantly, Martian gravity (which is about 40% lower than here on Earth). Despite a slight delay due to an anomalous temperature reading, the initial testing phase has been going well and the arm is on course to drill its first rock at the Glenelg outcrop.

The turret at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm (including MAHLI, pink circle) as seen by the MastCam (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS).

Other instruments currently undergoing testing are the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). MAHLI is a small camera that will be used to provide close-up images of the minerals and textures of Martian rocks.  It firstly returned a self-portrait before the dust covers were removed from the lens to capture an image of some Martian soil. The APXS will study rocks by bombarding them with alpha particles and then detecting the characteristic x-rays emitted from elements in the sample. Knowing the abundances of elements within a rock helps us to understand how it formed.

Curiosity is currently a quarter of the way to Glenelg and should reach the outcrop in the next couple of weeks.

MAHLI takes its first image with the dust cover off. The image is 86cm wide and contains dust and pebbles on the Martian surface (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS).

MAHLI (with the dust cover still on the lens) took this self-portrait showing the MastCam and Chemcam (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS).

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2 Responses to Curious but complex

  1. Thanks so much for posting this latest update. I find it just enthralling to see this quality of information coming from a solar body some 50 million miles (?) from Earth.

    • ajking85 says:

      The images being returned are absolutely amazing! Even more incredible is that little over a month into a two year mission, Curiosity has already returned more data than all of the previous Mars rovers combined.

      Thanks for reading!

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