Wednesday, August 08, 2012

MSL/Curiosity: The Mast is Up!


Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The checkout of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) / Curiosity rover continues. And the MSL team is pleased to report, by way of this image, that the Curiosity's rotating mast is up! The mast can be seen in the shadow cast on the Martian surface. And, interesting to note, the mast took the picture itself! On the mast are several cameras that will help Curiosity, and the MSL mission team, take in the Martian features in both black-and-white and glorious color. The above black-and-white image was taken by one of the two navigation cameras (Navcams) on the mast.

One of the most important features on the rotating mast, and aboard Curiosity in general, is the instrument at the very top, known as the ChemCam. This instrument will use laser pulses to vaporize thin layers of material from Martian rocks or soil targets up to 9 meters (30 feet) away. ChemCam includes both a spectrometer to identify the types of atoms excited by the beam, and a telescope to capture detailed images of the area illuminated by the beam. The laser and telescope provide important information to the researchers, to help them make decisions on the best targets for Curiosity to approach and examine. Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., is the principal investigator for ChemCam.

The Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover mission is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C., by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (Caltech). More information about Curiosity is online at www.nasa.gov/msl and mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

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