Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Curiosity Finishes Close Inspection of Pyramid-Shaped Rock Target

NASA's rover Curiosity touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time on Sept. 22, assessing what chemical elements are in the rock called "Jake Matijevic."

The drive by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity during the mission's 43rd Martian day, or sol, (Sept. 19, 2012) ended with this rock about 8 feet (2.5 meters) in front of the rover. The rock is about 10 inches (25 centimeters) tall and 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide. The rover team has assessed it as a suitable target for the first use of Curiosity's contact instruments on a rock. The image was taken by the left Navigation camera (Navcam) at the end of the drive.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

First Rock Contact by Curiosity's Arm: This engineering animation depicts the moves that NASA's rover Curiosity made on Sept. 22, 2012, when the rover touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time. Curiosity examined the rock with instruments on the arm. This animation was made with the software that engineers used for planning the maneuver: Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Curiosity's mission site

This image combines photographs taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at three different distances from the first Martian rock that NASA's Curiosity rover touched with its arm. 

This image combines photographs taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at three different distances from the first Martian rock that NASA's Curiosity rover touched with its arm. The three exposures were taken during the 47th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 23, 2012). The team has named the target rock "Jake Matijevic." The scale bar is 4 centimeters (1.6 inches).

MAHLI imaged Jake Matijevic from distances of about 10 inches, or 25 centimeters (context image); about 2 inches, or 5 centimeters (larger white box); and about 1 inch, or 2.5 centimeters (smaller white box). The series nested into this one image takes advantage of MAHLI's adjustable focus.

MAHLI reveals that the target rock has a relatively smooth, gray surface with some glinty facets reflecting sunlight and reddish dust collecting in recesses in the rock.

Jake Matijevic is a dark, apparently uniform rock that was selected as a desirable target because it allowed the science team to compare results of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument and the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, both of which provide information about the chemical elements in a target. APXS, like MAHLI, is on the turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. It is placed in contact with a rock to take a reading. ChemCam shoots laser pulses at a target from the top of the rover's mast.

Jake Matijevic was also the first rock target for MAHLI, which was deployed to document the APXS and ChemCam analysis areas.
Close-Ups of rock 'Jake Matijevic'
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This engineering animation depicts the moves that NASA's rover Curiosity made on Sept. 22, 2012, when the rover touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time. This engineering animation depicts the moves that NASA's rover Curiosity made on Sept. 22, 2012, when the rover touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time. Curiosity examined the rock with instruments on the arm. This animation was made with the software that engineers used for planning the maneuver: Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program.

After a short drive the preceding day to get within arm's reach of the football-size rock, Curiosity put its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument in contact with the rock during the rover's 46th Martian day, or sol. The APXS is on a turret at the end of the rover's 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), on the same turret, was used for close-up inspection of the rock. Both instruments were also used on Jake Matijevic on Sol 47 (Sept. 23).

Curiosity's Rock-Contact Science Begins: This image shows the robotic arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity with the first rock touched by an instrument on the arm. The rover's right Navigation Camera (Navcam) took this image during the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Sept. 22, 2012). On that sol, the rover placed the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument onto the rock to assess what chemical elements were present in the rock. The rock is named "Jake Matijevic" in commemoration of influential Mars-rover engineer Jacob Matijevic (1947-2012).
Image combines photographs taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at three different distances from the first Martian rock that NASA's Curiosity rover touched with its arm
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which shoots laser pulses at a target from the top of Curiosity's mast, also assessed what chemical elements are in the rock Jake Matijevic. Using both APXS and ChemCam on this rock provides a cross calibration of the two instruments.

With a final ChemCam laser testing of the rock on Sol 48 (Sept. 24), Curiosity finished its work on Jake Matijevic. The rover departed the same sol, with a drive of about 138 feet (42 meters), its longest yet. Sol 48, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 3:09 p.m. Sept. 24, PDT.

Curiosity landed on Mars seven weeks ago to begin a two-year mission using 10 instruments to assess whether a carefully chosen study area inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project, including Curiosity, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the rover. The Space Division of MDA Information Systems Inc. built the robotic arm in Pasadena.

More information about Curiosity is online at http://www.nasa.gov/msl andhttp://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ . You can follow the mission on Facebook at:http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at:http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

Contacts and sources:
Guy Webster / D.C. Agle  
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,Calif.

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