One of the most interesting NASA missions to Mars ever conducted saw a giant Rover dubbed Curiosity land on the surface of the red planet not long ago. So far, Curiosity has driven around the landscape a bit and conducted a few minor experiments and tests getting prepared for its main mission. The Curiosity team has been testing the rover's robotic arm to get ready for the first examination of Martian rock.
The team has been testing the seven-foot long robotic arm and so far has gained the confidence needed in the arm's ability to precisely maneuver on Mars with the planet's temperature and gravity conditions. During our tests, Curiosity has remained at a Martian location that it reached during a short drive on September 5. NASA says that this week the Curiosity team will resume driving the rover and will use its cameras to seek out the first rock to touch with instruments on the arm.
The seven-foot-long robotic arm is festooned with scientific measurement instruments and is one of the main tools the robot will use during its mission on Mars. The robotic arm has two scientific instruments attached including the Mars Hand Lens Imager able to take close-up, color images of rocks and other material. The robotic arm also has a tool called the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer.
That spectrometer tool is able to determine the elemental composition of the target rock. Both robotic arm tools have passed preparatory tests. The scientific instruments are mounted on a turret at the end of the robotic arm and can be placed in contact with target rocks. The Curiosity team has also been testing out other instruments on the rover including the adjustable focus MAHLI camera which has been use this week to take images of objects close to the rover and far away. That camera is also helping the scientists to evaluate the robotic arms ability to position its tools and instruments.