Pebble Puzzle Solved
January 10, 2005
In the quest to determine if a pebble was jamming the rock abrasion tool on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, scientists and engineers examined this up-close, approximate true-color image of the tool. The picture was taken by the rover's panoramic camera, using filters centered at 601, 535, and 482 nanometers, at 12:47 local solar time on sol 200 (August 16, 2004). Colored spots have been drawn on this image corresponding to regions where panoramic camera reflectance spectra were acquired. Those regions are: the grinding wheel heads (yellow); the rock abrasion tool magnets (green); the supposed pebble (red); a sunlit portion of the aluminum rock abrasion tool housing (purple); and a shadowed portion of the rock abrasion tool housing (brown). These spectra demonstrated that the composition of the supposed pebble was clearly different from that of the sunlit and shadowed portions of the rock abrasion tool, while similar to that of the dust-coated rock abrasion tool magnets and grinding heads. This led the team to conclude that the object disabling the rock abrasion tool was indeed a martian pebble.
Topics: Mars Exploration Rover, Spacecraft, Space exploration, Rock Abrasion Tool, Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, Opportunity rover, Mars, Abrasion