Check the excellent “selfie” which has been taken by Curiosity on Mars. 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 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA20316
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.
Science Mars Journal: Volume 3, Issue 1
Sources: NASA-JPL/Caltech, NASA Press Release