September 6, 2012
Curiosity Standing Still, But Still Offering Up Some Eye Candy
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA held a telephone conference with reporters today to give an update about what Curiosity is up to on the Martian surface.
At the future site, there are multiple targets that NASA plans to assess on whether they will be drilling. In an image released by the space agency, there are multiple bright spots that could be Curiosity's first drilling targets.
So far, Curiosity has driven a total of 358 feet from the Bradbury Landing spot, and now it will be sitting still to test out its arm.
NASA released a new image taken by the left eye of the Mast Camera on Curiosity of the rover's own Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).
MAHLI is one of the tools at the end of the rover's robotic arm, and in the image you can see the dust cover is still on the camera lens.
The picture shows the dust that accumulated during Curiosity's descent on the cover, which is going to be popped off in the coming days, NASA said.
Inside MAHLI are nine glass lens elements, and the front sapphire window which is bonded or cemented in place by a red-colored silicone material. This "glue" holds the lens elements in place, NASA said.
Also seen in the image is Curiosity's dust removal tool, which is a motorized wire brush attached to the robotic arm.
NASA unleashed another image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of Curiosity on the surface of the Red Planet. In this picture, the rover is seen at a distance from its original landing sight, as well as the tracks it has made while driving around on Mars.
Observing the tracks over time through images like this will provide information on how the surface changes as dust is deposited and eroded.
Another image taken by MRO shows a color shot of the parachute and back shell that helped deliver Curiosity to the surface. In the image, you can see where the shell impacted the surface of Mars.
Curiosity will begin driving again next week towards Glenelg, and NASA said in about a month from now, engineers will be performing the rover's first scoop of Mars.
The drilling, NASA said, will probably be weeks after that, and they are planning to scoop first because it is a little easier to perform.
The first drilling will be more than a month from now, and maybe a little longer, according to the space agency, because they plan to do a little more driving beforehand to find a good spot to drill.
Stay in touch with redOrbit to get your Curiosity fix, and keep up with what is happening on the Red Planet.
Image 2 (below): Tracks from the first drives of NASA's Curiosity rover are visible in this image captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The rover is seen where the tracks end. The image's color has been enhanced to show the surface details better. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona