Here’s the PEWPEW that Curiosity tweeted about.
Marks of Laser Exam on Martian Soil
The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity used its laser to examine side-by-side points in a target patch of soil, leaving the marks apparent in this before-and-after comparison.
The two images were taken by ChemCam’s Remote Micro-Imager from a distance of about 11.5 feet (3.5 meters). The diameter of the circular field of view is about 3.1 inches (7.9 centimeters).
Researchers used ChemCam to study this soil target, named “Beechey,” during the 19th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission (Aug. 25, 2012). The observation mode, called a five-by-one raster, is a way to investigate chemical variability at short scale on rock or soil targets. For the Beechey study, each point received 50 shots of the instrument’s laser. The points on the target were studied in sequence left to right. Each shot delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excites atoms in the target into a glowing state, and the instrument records the spectra of the resulting glow to identify what chemical elements are present in the target.
The holes seen here have widths of about 0.08 inch to 0.16 inch (2 to 4 millimeters), much larger than the size of the laser spot (0.017 inch or 0.43 millimeter at this distance). This demonstrates the power of the laser to evacuate dust and small unconsolidated grains. A preliminary analysis of the spectra recorded during this raster study show that the first laser shots look alike for each of the five points, but then variability is seen from shot to shot in a given point and from point to point.
ChemCam was developed, built and tested by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by France’s national space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and research agency, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 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.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/ CNES/IRAP/LPGN/CNRS
Curiosity Lands on Mars
Mon, 06 Aug 2012 01:32:54 AM EDT
NASA’s Curiosity rover has landed on Mars! Its descent-stage retrorockets fired, guiding it to the surface. Nylon cords lowered the rover to the ground in the “sky crane” maneuver. When the spacecraft sensed touchdown, the connecting cords were severed, and the descent stage flew out of the way. The time of day at the landing site is mid-afternoon — about 3 p.m. local Mars time at Gale Crater. The time at JPL’s mission control is about 10:31 p.m. Aug. 5 PDT (early morning EDT).
You know, rocket scientists have teh smartz.
Artist’s concept illustrations show (left) the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during its voyage from Earth to Mars and (right) the mission’s rover, Curiosity, working on Mars after landing.
Spacecraft Completes Biggest Maneuver
PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the biggest maneuver planned for the mission’s journey between Earth and Mars.
“We’ve completed a big step toward our encounter with Mars,” said Brian Portock of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., deputy mission manager for the cruise phase of the mission. “The telemetry from the spacecraft and the Doppler data show that the maneuver was completed as planned.”
The Mars Science Laboratory mission will use its car-size rover, Curiosity, to investigate whether the selected region on Mars inside Gale Crater has offered environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.
Engineers had planned today’s three-hour series of thruster-engine firings to accomplish two aims: to put the spacecraft’s trajectory about 25,000 miles (about 40,000 kilometers) closer to encountering Mars and to advance the time of the encounter by about 14 hours, compared with the trajectory following the mission’s Nov. 26, 2011, launch.
“The timing of the encounter is important for arriving at Mars just when the planet’s rotation puts Gale Crater in the right place,” said JPL’s Tomas Martin-Mur, chief navigator for the mission.
The mission’s second trajectory correction maneuver, expected to be about one-sixth the magnitude of this first one, is scheduled for March 26. Up to four additional opportunities for fine-tuning, as needed, are scheduled before the arrival at Mars on Aug. 5, 2012, PDT (Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time).
The spacecraft’s initial trajectory resulting from the launch included an intentional offset to prevent the upper stage of the launch vehicle from hitting Mars. That upper stage was not cleaned the way the spacecraft itself was to protect Mars from Earth’s microbes.
The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft rotates in flight at about two revolutions per minute. Today’s maneuver included two different components: one that changed velocity in the direction of the axis of the spacecraft’s rotation, and one that changed velocity in a direction perpendicular to that.
The maneuver used the eight thruster engines on the cruise stage of the spacecraft, grouped into two sets of four. It began with a thrust lasting about 19 minutes, using just one thruster in each set and affecting velocity along the direction of the axis of rotation. Then, to affect velocity perpendicular to that line, each set of thrusters was fired for 5 seconds when the rotation put that set facing the proper direction. These 5-second bursts were repeated more than 200 times during a period of about two hours for a total of about 40 minutes.
The maneuver was calculated to produce a net change in velocity of about 12.3 miles per hour (5.5 meters per second), combining a slight increase in speed with a small change in direction of travel.
As of 9 a.m. PST (noon EST) on Thursday, Jan. 12, the spacecraft will have traveled 81.2 million miles (130.6 million kilometers) of its 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) flight to Mars. It will be moving at about 10,300 mph (16,600 kilometers per hour) relative to Earth, and at about 68,700 mph (110,500 kilometers per hour) relative to the sun.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mars’ Claritas Fossae region is characterized by systems of “graben” running mainly north-west to south-east. A graben forms when a block of the planet’s crust drops down between two faults, due to extension, or pulling, of the crust.
This image was originally released July 13, 2011.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Good evening, Claritas.
This is soooo cool.
It IS amazing. But I see so many things that could go wrong.
Of course, the engineers who designed it all are much smarter than I am (HELLO! Rocket scientists!), so I shouldn’t worry about its viability.
I’ll just cross my fingers when the time comes and wait for the awesome science to flow from the mission.