Mars Rover Curiosity Stops to Check Out a Rock

    September 20, 2012
    Sean Patterson
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NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity this week stopped to examine a football-sized rock on the way to its current destination. The rover stopped about 8 feet out from the rock, which has been named “Jake Matijevic” after the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory and the Curiosity rover, who passed away last month.

The Mars rover team at NASA’s Jet Propulstion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology plan to use Curiosity’s arm to take close-up pictures and touch the rock with a spectrometer. By using the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and Chemistry and Camera Instrument, the team will be able to determine its elemental composition. This is the first time the rover’s arm will be used to examine a rock.

Before stopping to examine Jake Matijevic on Wednesday, Curiosity had driven six days in a row, with distances averaging 72 to 121 feet. The rover’s current destination is an area called Glenelg, which contains three different types of terrain. There, Curiosity will use its capability to analyze powder drilled from the interiors of rocks for the first time.

“This robot was built to rove, and the team is really getting a good rhythm of driving day after day when that’s the priority,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Richard Cook.

Researchers with the Mars Science Laboratory Project are using Curiosity’s mast camera to find potential targets of investigation. Dark streaks on rocks in the Glenelg area have sparked their intrest. In addition, some lighter-toned terrain in the Glenelg area has been found to retain daytime heat well into the night.

“As we’re getting closer to the light-toned area, we see thin, dark bands of unknown origin,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger. “The smaller-scale diversity is becoming more evident as we get closer, providing more potential targets for investigation.”

  • Tom Bachorski

    Exploring Mars is well and good but, Ithink we should also see if we can get something to change the atmosphere suitable to grow things to permote life. Then in some distant future we may find it suitable to inhabit the planet.

    • Shawn Wilson

      I think that is what they are planning to do, to be able determine.That is why they are focusing on the surface first then they will study the climate this could take many more years before they attempt to send some type gas explosing that could offset the climate to make it liviable for humans who knows

  • http://www.engage-2012.com/ Martin

    I don’t see quite a reason why to stop just because of a rock. I think that they should stick to their original schedule and program and leave these “unplanned” things to the future.

  • Twinkbert Goobershnutz

    Oh Wow! A rock!!

  • Christian

    Thanks for reporting Curiosity’s progress. Is there anyone out there (I mean on earth) who can help your correspondents with their spelling and sentence structure?