Mars rover flexes its arm in test

Aug. 21, 2012 at 7:02 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 21 (UPI) -- NASA's Mars rover Curiosity moved its robotic arm, vital for scientific work, for the first time since before its launch last November, engineers said.

The 7-foot-long arm, equipped with a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop, and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil, was successfully tested Monday, its extension captured by other cameras on the rover, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported.

"We have had to sit tight for the first two weeks since landing, while other parts of the rover were checked out, so to see the arm extended in these images is a huge moment for us," Matt Robinson, lead engineer for Curiosity's robotic arm testing and operations, said.

"The arm is how we are going to get samples into the laboratory instruments and how we place other instruments onto surface targets."

The arm was activated to check motors and joints, extended forward using all five joints, then stowed again in preparation for the rover's first drive, engineers said.

"It worked just as we planned," JPL's Louise Jandura, sample system chief engineer for Curiosity, said. "From telemetry and from the images received this morning, we can confirm that the arm went to the positions we commanded it to go to."

However, there will be weeks of testing and calibrating the arm before it can deliver a first sample of martian soil to instruments inside the rover, JPL scientists said.

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