Posted in | Aerospace Robotics

New Target for NASA Mars Rover

Published on September 21, 2012 at 9:20 AM

By Kalwinder Kaur

While on its way to first destination, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has encountered a football-size rock. With only 8 ft of distance and halfway from Bradbury Landing, Curiosity's landing site to Glenelg, the rock will be the first target of examination for rover. Using spectrometer, researchers will analyze and resolve the elemental composition of rock, followed by capturing pictures using an arm-mounted camera.

The elements in the rock will be detected using the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument as well as the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer. The two instruments will experience cross-checking.

The rock has been dubbed "Jake Matijevic," after Jacob Matijevic (mah-TEE-uh-vik) who recently passed away. He served as the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the project's Curiosity rover. Upon driving six days in sequence, Curiosity’s daily distances range from 72 ft to 121 ft.

The team intends to select a rock in the Glenelg area, enabling rover's first use of its competence to examine powder drilled from interiors of rocks. Glenelg area has three types of terrain being intersected, out of which the light-toned area is much significant due to its longer retention of daytime heat into the night, showing unusual composition.

Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) allows detection of potential targets on the ground. Rocks in the Glenelg area have been found to have Dark streaks.

Recently, Curiosity targeted the Mastcam at the sun and captured images of Phobos and Deimos, Mars' two moons that passed in front of the sun. Also, solar transits in Spirit and Opportunity were observed.

Curiosity recently examined Phobos, the time wherein the edge of the moon started overlapping the disc of the sun was observed for a few seconds.

Phobos brings slight alterations to the shape of Mars, and these alterations are based on the Martian interior that caused decaying of Phobos' orbit. Mars' interior structure can be determined by accurately timing the orbital change.

Curiosity's two-year prime mission will also include the analysis and determination of thriving conditions for microbes within Gale Crater.

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/

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