NASA’s Mars corsair Curiosity is slated to glow a rock-vaporizing laser for a initial time this weekend, shortly before a 1-ton robot’s lass expostulate on the Red Planet.
Scientists devise to blast a Martian mill called N165 with Curiosity’s laser, that is partial of a rover’s remote-sampling ChemCam instrument. The 3-inch-wide (7.6 centimeters) mill sits only 9 feet (2.7 meters) from Curiosity, good within ChemCam’s 25-foot (7.6 m) range, scientists said.
“Our group has waited 8 prolonged years to get to this date, and we’re happy that all is looking good so far,” ChemCam principal questioner Roger Wiens, of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told reporters currently (Aug. 17). “Hopefully we’ll be behind early subsequent week and be means to speak about how Curiosity’s initial laser shots went.”
Curiosity, that landed in Mars’ outrageous Gale Crater on Aug. 5, is also gearing adult to pierce a 6 wheels for a initial time. The rover’s handlers have pronounced a brief exam expostulate could take place around Sol 15 — goal terminology for Curiosity’s 15th full day on a Red Planet — that corresponds to Monday or Tuesday (Aug. 20 or 21) Earth time.
Also today, scientists announced a aim finish for Curiosity’s initial large trek — a mark 1,300 feet (400 m) or so easterly of a rover’s alighting site that a goal group has dubbed Glenelg. Researchers chose it since Glenelg harbors 3 opposite geological units for Curiosity to study. [Photos: Glenelg on Mars - Latest Curiosity Rover Views]
“This was a healthy aim to collect up,” pronounced Curiosity arch scientist John Grotzinger, a geologist during Caltech in Pasadena. “It looks unequivocally obvious.”
Firing adult a laser
ChemCam, that is brief for Chemistry and Camera, fires a laser during Mars rocks and afterwards determines their chemical makeup by analzying a vaporized bits. It’s one of 10 instruments designed to assistance Curiosity establish if Mars has ever been able of ancillary microbial life.
While researchers haven’t incited a laser on yet, ChemCam seems to be in excellent operative shape, Wiens said.
“We have fundamentally finished all with this instrument solely for spin a laser on,” Wiens said. “Everything checks out good so far, so we’re unequivocally optimistic.”
Over a subsequent few days, a group will perform some some-more calibration work with ChemCam, he added. The corsair will also sketch N165 before finally sharpened a mill with a laser — a miracle that could come Saturday night (Aug. 18), researchers said.
N165 was selected predominantly for convenience, Wiens said. The ordinary-seeming mill is tighten to Curiosity and presents a comparatively prosaic face to a rover, creation an mouth-watering aim for ChemCam.
“We didn’t collect it for a scholarship value per se,” Wiens said. “This is arrange of a aim practice, if we will.”
The trek to Glenelg and beyond
Curiosity’s primary scholarship aim is a bottom of Mount Sharp, a puzzling 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) towering that rises from Gale Crater‘s center. Mars-orbiting booster have speckled justification of clays and sulfates in Mount Sharp’s reduce reaches, suggesting a area was unprotected to glass H2O prolonged ago.
But Curiosity won’t go true to Mount Sharp. Rather, it will conduct initial for Glenelg, that is a bit out of a way. But a outing is value it, Grotzinger said, for Glenelg captures most of a geological farrago of Gale Crater’s building and could tell engaging tales of a own.
Curiosity’s primary goal is slated to final for dual years, that should give a $2.5 billion corsair adequate time to examine Mount Sharp’s flanks and foothills as well, he added.
The rover’s attainment during Glenelg isn’t accurately imminent, however. Researchers will expected keep checking out Curiosity and a instruments for another few weeks or so before they feel prepared to strike a road. And a outing to Glenelg could take adult to dual months, depending on how most scholarship a group wants to do along a way.
The group will substantially keep Curiosity during Glenelg for about a month, Grotzinger said. The corsair will use a cavalcade for a initial time during a site, tedious some-more deeply into Martian mill than any drudge has before.
“Sometime toward a finish of a calendar year — roughly, genuine approximately — we would theory afterwards we would spin a sights towards a drive, trek towards Mount Sharp,” Grotzinger said.
- 1st Photos of Mars by Curiosity Rover (Gallery)
- Mars Rover Curiosity: Mars Science Lab Coverage
- NASA’s Huge Mars Rover Curiosity: 11 Amazing Facts
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