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NASA Curiosity Team Pinpoints Site for First Drive, First Laser Use On Tap This Weekend

August 18, 2012 Leave a comment

The scientists and engineers of NASA’s Curiosity rover mission have selected the first destination for their one-ton, six-wheeled mobile Mars laboratory. The target area, named Glenelg, is a natural intersection of three kinds of terrain. The choice was described by Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology during a media teleconference on Aug. 17.

The trek to Glenelg will send the rover 1,300 feet (400 meters) east southeast of its landing site. One of the three types of terrain intersecting at Glenelg is layered bedrock, which is attractive as the first drilling target.

Prior to the rover’s trip to Glenelg, the team in charge of Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, is planning to give their mast-mounted rock-zapping laser and telescope combination a thorough checkout. On Saturday night, ChemCam is expected to “zap” its first rock in the name of planetary science. It will be the first time such a powerful laser has been used on the surface of another world.

“Rock N165 looks like your typical Mars rock, about three inches wide. It’s about 10 feet away,” said Roger Wiens, principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “We are going to hit it with 14 millijoules of energy 30 times in 10 seconds. It is not only going to be an excellent test of our system, it should be pretty cool too.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/aug/HQ_12-287_Curiosity_First_Drive_Site_Chosen.html

ChemCam Laser Sets Its Sights On First Martian Target

August 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Curiosity at Work on Mars (Artist’s Concept) Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team have received the first photos from the instrument’s remote micro imager. The successful capture of ChemCam’s first 10 photos sets the stage for the first test bursts of the instrument’s rock-zapping laser in the near future.

“The successful delivery of these photos means we can begin efforts in earnest for the first images of Mars rocks by the ChemCam instrument and the first use of the instrument’s laser,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator of the ChemCam Team. “We anticipate these next steps over the weekend.”

The next tasks for ChemCam—the inaugural laser burst and spectral reading—will help scientists determine the integrity of the ChemCam system and the pointing capability of the rover’s mast, which supports ChemCam’s laser and telescope. Scientists and engineers from NASA’s Curiosity rover mission have selected ChemCam’s first target, a three-inch rock designated N-165 located near the rover.

Full Story: http://www.lanl.gov/news/releases/chemcam-laser-sets-its-sights-on-first-martian-target.html