Curiosity Maneuver Prepares for Drilling

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The percussion drill in the turret of tools at the end of the robotic arm of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has been positioned in contact with the rock surface in this image from the rover’s front Hazard-Avoidance Camera (Hazcam).

The drill was positioned for pre-load testing, and the Hazcam recorded this image during the 170th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Jan. 27, 2013). Other tests with the drill are planned before the first drilling into a rock on Mars to collect a sample of rock material for analysis.

In this view, the drill is positioned on a target on a patch of flat, veined rock called “John Klein.” The site is within the “Yellowknife Bay” area of Gale Crater.
Read more: http://www.nasa.gov/

First Use of Mars Rover Curiosity’s Dust Removal Tool

main_pia16565-43_946-710This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows the patch of rock cleaned by the first use of the rover’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT).

The tool is a motorized, wire-bristle brush on the turret at the end of the rover’s arm. Its first use was on the 150th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Jan. 6, 2013). MAHLI took this image from a distance of about 10 inches (25 centimeters) after the brushing was completed on this rock target called “Ekwir_1.” The patch of the rock from which dust has been brushed away is about 1.85 inches by 2.44 inches (47 millimeters by 62 millimeters). The scale bar at bottom right is 1 centimeter (0.39 inch).

A view of Curiosity’s turret at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA15699 shows the DRT on the right side of the image and the MAHLI at the center.

Read more: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16565.html

Curiosity rover nearing Yellowknife Bay

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The NASA Mars rover Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the mission’s 120th Martian day, or sol (Dec. 7, 2012), to record this view of a rock outcrop informally named “Shaler.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

he NASA Mars rover Curiosity drove 63 feet (19 meters) northeastward early Monday, Dec. 10, approaching a step down into a slightly lower area called “Yellowknife Bay,” where researchers intend to choose a rock to drill.
The drive was Curiosity’s fourth consecutive driving day since leaving a site near an outcrop called “Point Lake,” where it arrived last month. These drives totaled 260 feet (79 meters) and brought the mission’s total odometry to 0.37 mile (598 meters). The route took the rover close to an outcrop called “Shaler,” where scientists used Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument and Mast Camera (Mastcam) to assess the rock’s composition and observe its layering. Before departure from Point Lake, a fourth sample of dusty sand that the rover had been carrying from the “Rocknest” drift was ingested and analyzed by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.

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This map traces where NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drove between landing at a site subsequently named “Bradbury Landing,” and the position reached during the mission’s 123rd Martian day, or sol, (Aug. 10, 2012). The inset shows the most recent legs of the trraverse in greater detail. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Curiosity ended Monday’s drive about 30 percent shorter than planned for the day when it detected a slight difference between two calculations of its tilt, not an immediate risk, but a trigger for software to halt the drive as a precaution. “The rover is traversing across terrain different from where it has driven earlier, and responding differently,” said Rick Welch, mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We’re making progress, though we’re still in the learning phase with this rover, going a little slower on this terrain than we might wish we could.” Curiosity is approaching a lip where it will descend about 20 inches (half a meter) to Yellowknife Bay. The rover team is checking carefully for a safe way down. Yellowknife Bay is the temporary destination for first use of Curiosity’s rock-powdering drill, before the mission turns southwestward for driving to its main destination on the slope of Mount Sharp. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the mission’s Curiosity rover for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the rover.
Read more at: http://phys.org/

SAM: Sample Analysis at Mars

curiosity_last_photoNASA’s Curiosity rover analyzed its first solid sample of Mars with a variety of instruments, including the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. Developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., SAM is a portable chemistry lab tucked inside the Curiosity rover. SAM examines the chemistry of samples it ingests, checking particularly for chemistry relevant to whether an environment can support or could have supported life. Learn more about how SAM processes samples by watching this video!

http://youtu.be/XXaa4_02Edw

Mars Soil Sample Delivered for Analysis Inside Rover

Three bite marks left in the Martian ground by the scoop on the robotic arm of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity are visible in this image taken by the rover’s right Navigation Camera during the mission’s 69th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 15, 2012). The third scoopful, collected on that sol, left the bite or pit farthest to the right. Each of the three bites is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. Of the two bites to the left, the lower one is where Curiosity collected its first scoopful of Martian material, on Sol 61 (Oct. 7, 2012). The upper one is the site of the second scooping, on Sol 66 (Oct. 12, 2012). The location for all of these scoops, and two more planned, is a ripple of windblown dust and sand at a location called “Rocknest.” The bright circular part of the rover near the bottom center of this image is the observation tray, which is 3 inches (7.8 centimeters) in diameter.

Mission Status Report

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has ingested its first solid sample into an analytical instrument inside the rover, a capability at the core of the two-year mission.

The rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument is analyzing this sample to determine what minerals it contains.

“We are crossing a significant threshold for this mission by using CheMin on its first sample,” said Curiosity’s project scientist, John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “This instrument gives us a more definitive mineral-identifying method than ever before used on Mars: X-ray diffraction. Confidently identifying minerals is important because minerals record the environmental conditions under which they form.”

The sample is a sieved portion — about as much material as in a baby aspirin — from the third scoop collected by Curiosity as a windblown patch of dusty sand called “Rocknest.” The rover’s robotic arm delivered the sample to CheMin’s opened inlet funnel on the rover’s deck on Oct. 17.

The previous day, the rover shook the scooped material inside sample-processing chambers to scrub internal surfaces of any residue carried from Earth. One earlier scoopful was also used for cleaning. Additional repetitions of this cleaning method will be used before delivery of a future sample to the rover’s other internal analytic instrument, the Sample Analysis at Mars investigation, which studies samples’ chemistry.

Various small bits of light-toned material on the ground at Rocknest have affected the rover’s activities in the past several days. One piece about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) long was noticed on Oct. 7. The rover team postponed use of the robotic arm for two days while investigating this object, and assessed it to be debris from the spacecraft.

Images taken after Curiosity collected its second scoop of Rocknest material on Oct. 12 showed smaller bits of light-toned material in the hole dug by the scooping action. This led to discarding that scoopful rather than using it to scrub the processing mechanisms. Scientists assess these smaller, bright particles to be native Martian material, not from the spacecraft.

“We plan to learn more both about the spacecraft material and about the smaller, bright particles,” said Curiosity Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. “We will finish determining whether the spacecraft material warrants concern during future operations. The native Mars particles become fodder for the mission’s scientific studies.”
Read more: www.nasa.gov

Mars Rock Touched by NASA Curiosity has Surprises

Target: Jake Matijevic Rock
This image shows where NASA’s Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as “Jake Matijevic.” The red dots are where the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument zapped it with its laser on Sept. 21, 2012, and Sept. 24, 2012, which were the 45th and 48th sol, or Martian day of operations. The circular black and white images were taken by ChemCam to look for the pits produced by the laser. The purple circles indicate where the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer trained its view.

This image was obtained by Curiosity’s Mast Camera on Sept. 21, 2012 PDT (Sept. 22 UTC), or sol 46. An unannotated version of this image is also available.

Scientists white-balanced the color in this view to increase the inherent differences visible within the rock. (nasa)

Read more: www.nasa.gov

Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover to scoop sand sample

“Rocknest”: A patch of sand just downhill from a cluster of dark rocks is the site for the first scoop

By Jonathan Amos
The Curiosity rover is preparing to scoop its first sample of Martian soil.

The vehicle, which landed on the Red Planet in August, has driven up to a pile of sandy material that mission scientists have dubbed “Rocknest”.

This weekend, the robot will dig into the ground with its clamshell-shaped trowel, with the aim first of cleaning the mechanism of earthly contamination.

Later, it will repeat the task and deliver an aspirin-sized measure of sand to onboard labs for analysis.

Nasa engineers have cautioned that the whole process will be long and drawn out. The machinery involved is complex and the team says it needs time to learn how best to operate it.

Curiosity, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), will very likely be stationary at Rocknest for a couple of weeks while the scoop tests are carried out……….. Read more at: www.bbc.co.uk