[meteorite-list] Sandy Selfie Sent from NASA Mars Curiosity Rover
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 2016 12:46:40 -0800 (PST)
Sandy Selfie Sent from NASA Mars Rover
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
January 29, 2016
This Jan. 19, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows
the vehicle at "Namib Dune," where the rover's activities included scuffing
into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory
analysis. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The latest self-portrait from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the car-size
mobile laboratory beside a dark dune where it has been scooping and sieving
samples of sand.
The new selfie combines 57 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)
camera at the end of Curiosity's arm on Jan. 19. It is online at
The rover has been investigating a group of active sand dunes for two
months, studying how the wind moves and sorts sand particles on Mars.
The site is part of Bagnold Dune Field, which lines the northwestern flank
of Mars' Mount Sharp.
When the component images were taken, the rover had scuffed the edge of
"Namib Dune" and collected the first of three scoops of sand from that
dune. It used its scoop later to collect a second sample on Jan. 19, and
a third on Jan. 22.
During processing of the third sample, an actuator in the sample-processing
device did not perform as expected when commanded. This week, the Curiosity
team is identifying possible reasons for the actuator's performance.
The processing device on the arm is named CHIMRA, for Collection and Handling
for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis. The component that was commanded to
open, but did not, is called the CHIMRA tunnel. It is opened by using
the thwack actuator, a motorized component that also can deliver a firm
tap to help clean sample material from a nearby sieve. Part of the third
scooped sample is inside the CHIMRA tunnel after passing through a sieve.
If the tunnel had opened via the thwack actuator as planned, the next
step would have been to take an image of the sand inside it.
"The rover responded properly to this unexpected event," said Steve Lee,
deputy project manager for Curiosity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, California. "It stopped moving the actuator and halted further
use of the arm and sampling system."
While diagnostic work progresses, the team also is continuing to use the
remote-sensing instruments on Curiosity's mast and environmental monitoring
instruments. One part of the dune investigation is to view the same location
repeatedly to check for movement of sand grains caused by wind on Mars.
If movement occurs, the team can use the rover's wind measurements to
figure out the strength and direction of the winds that caused the movement.
On the second scoop from Namib Dune, Curiosity successfully used two different
sieves in CHIMRA to prepare a portion for analysis. This two-sieve procedure
had not been used previously in the rover's three-and-a-half years on
Mars. The resulting portion was made up of sand grains large enough to
be held back by a sieve with pores of 150 microns (0.006 inch) and small
enough to pass through a sieve with pores of 1 millimeter (1,000 microns
or 0.04 inch). This intermediate-grain-size portion was delivered to the
rover's internal chemistry-analysis laboratory.
The third scoop was to have been processed the same way, but the science
team decided this week that the portion delivered from the second scoop
will suffice. When the rover drives on after diagnostic work on CHIMRA,
it will have finished its investigations at Namib Dune. The mission's
examination of active sand dunes -- the first ever studied up close other
than on Earth -- is providing information about active dune processes
in conditions with much less atmosphere and less gravity than on Earth.
Researchers are evaluating possible sites for the next use of Curosity's
drill to collect rock-powder samples of the bedrock in the area.
Curiosity reached the base of Mount Sharp in 2014 after fruitfully investigating
outcrops closer to its landing site and then trekking to the layered mountain.
On the lower portion of the mountain, the mission is studying how Mars'
ancient environment changed from wet conditions favorable for microbial
life to harsher, drier conditions. For more information about Curiosity,
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov
Received on Wed 03 Feb 2016 03:46:40 PM PST