Space

September 14, 2012

Mars rover Curiosity arm tests nearly complete

NASA’s Mars Curiosity team is 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 that can take close-up, color images and a tool called Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer 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 Guelph, 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 make 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” 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 microbial life.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines March 23, 2015

News: Obama says more troops will stay in Afghanistan next year - President Obama March 24 formally abandoned his pledge to bring U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan down to 5,000 by the end of this year, saying the current force of about 10,000 will remain there into 2016.   Business: U.S. special ops to sole-source 2,000...
 
 

News Briefs March 25, 2015

Pentagon notifying U.S. troops named by alleged IS hackers The Pentagon said March 23 it is notifying 100 U.S. military members that their names and addresses were posted on the Internet by a group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division. The group said it was posting the information, including photos of the individuals, to...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Lockheed Martin acquires high-speed wind tunnel, plans upgrades

Courtesy photograph A RATTLRS cruise-missile inlet undergoes testing at the High Speed Wind Tunnel at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie. Lockheed Martin recently purchased the facility and plans numerou...
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andrew McMurtrie

Off they go: Three more C-130Js delivered

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andrew McMurtrie March 19, a U.S. Air Force crew took delivery of and ferried an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations tanker aircraft that is assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command’s ...
 
 

Northrop to provide DIRCM for Canadian Chinook fleet

Northrop Grumman has been selected by the Royal Canadian Air Force to provide infrared missile protection on its fleet of CH-147F Chinooks. “Battle-tested in the harshest conditions and in use around the world, Northrop Grumman’s infrared countermeasure systems have been protecting warfighters for more than 50 years,” said Carl Smith, vice president, infrared countermeasures, ...
 
 

UTC Aerospace awarded contract for surface ship sonar domes

UTC Aerospace Systems has received a contract from the Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane, Indiana, to provide sonar domes for surface combat ships. The five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract is valued at up to $39 million and covers deliveries through 2020 to the U.S. Navy and foreign military sales. In addition to the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>