Mars Curiosity Rover Brushes Up On Rocks
January 8, 2013

Curiosity’s Dust Removal Tool Used For The First Time

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

NASA´s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity used its brush to clear away dust from part of a flat rock on Monday, marking the first time that the rover had used that particular tool, officials at the US space agency have announced.

The Dust Removal Tool, which NASA officials describe as “a motorized, wire-bristle brush designed to prepare selected rock surfaces for enhanced inspection by the rover's science instruments,” is one of the last instruments that had yet to be used by Curiosity during its mission.

The device was built into the turret at the end of the rover´s arm, and scientists say that it can be used to remove dust so that the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and the Mars Hand Lens Imager, which are also located in that same turret, can collect information that would have been inaccessible from a dust-covered rock.

“Choosing an appropriate target was crucial for the first-time use of the Dust Removal Tool,” NASA officials explained in a recent statement. “The chosen target, called "Ekwir_1," is on a rock in the "Yellowknife Bay" area of Mars' Gale Crater. The rover team is also evaluating rocks in that area as potential targets for first use of the rover's hammering drill in coming weeks.”

"We wanted to be sure we had an optimal target for the first use," added Diana Trujillo of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the head of Dust Removal Tool operations. "We need to place the instrument within less than half an inch of the target without putting the hardware at risk. We needed a flat target, one that wasn't rough, one that was covered with dust. The results certainly look good."

The Dust Removal Tool was built by New York-based Honeybee Robotics. The company had also previously constructed wire brushes and rock-grinding equipment for NASA Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Curiosity had spent much of the holidays at a location within Yellowknife Bay, where it snapped pictures of its surroundings. It resumed driving on January 3, moving approximately 10 feet to the north towards a thin, curving line of sinuous rock known as “Snake River.” In total, the rover has traveled more than 2,300 feet during its mission thus far.