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 August 1, 2014

News: Military downsizing leaves U.S. too weak to counter global threats, panel finds - An independent panel appointed by the Pentagon and Congress said July 31 that President Obama’s strategy for sizing the armed services is too weak for today’s global threats. Defense industry funds flow to contenders for key House chairmanships - Four of the top...
 
 

News Briefs August 1, 2014

China allows foreign reporters at news conference Foreign reporters are being allowed to attend China’s Defense Ministry briefings for the first time, marking a small milestone in the increasingly confident Chinese military’s efforts to project a more transparent image. Restrictions still apply and there is no sign of an improvement in the generally paltry amount...
 
 
Army photograph by John Andrew Hamilton

Rapid Equipping Force, PEO Soldier test targeting device at White Sands Missile Range

Army photograph by John Andrew Hamilton SFC Justin Rotti, a combat developer from the Training and Doctrine Command Fire Cell, Fires Center of Excellence, uses a developmental hand held precision targeting device during a test ...
 

 

NASA awards modification for geophysics, geodynamics, space geodesy support contract

NASA has awarded a modification to Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies Inc. of Greenbelt, Md. to continuing working the the Geophysics, Geodynamics and Space Geodesy Support Services contract. The maximum ordering value of the GGSG contract will increase to $76.8 million. The previous amount was $49.5 million. The increase in the maximum ordering value of the contract...
 
 
boeing-japan

Boeing, All Nippon Airways finalize order for 40 wide-body airplanes

  Boeing and All Nippon Airways July 31 finalized an order for 40 widebody airplanes – 20 777-9Xs, 14 787-9 Dreamliners and six 777-300ERs (Extended Range) – as part of the airline’s strategic long-haul fleet ren...
 
 

Excalibur Ib enters full rate production, receives $52 million award

TUCSON, Ariz., July 31, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Raytheon’s Excalibur Ib precision guided projectile has entered full rate production. U.S. Army approval of FRP completes Excalibur Ib’s low rate initial production phase. †Additionally, the U.S. Army has awarded Raytheon $52 million for continued Excalibur Ib production. “The full rate production decision is the culmination ...
 




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>