Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MSL/Curiosity: Wiggle and Park...

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The above animation is a set of four images showing the movement of the rear right wheel of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)/Curiosity rover, as MSL drivers turned the wheels in place at the landing site on Mars.

Using the elbow of the wheel arm as a reference, and using an analog clock face for positioning, the sequence of the image is as follows: 3 o'clock, 2 o'clock, 4 o'clock, 3:30. This sequence can be confirmed by referencing the progression of the shadow a the upper right of the images.

The images were taken August 21st by Curiosity's Navigation cameras (Navcams) during the initial steering tests. The rover drivers anticipate Curiosity's first drive in the few days that follow the test on the 21st.

On the 22nd, for the first drive test, the rover drivers plan to "park" Curiosity in a location which they have carefully examined with Curiosity's stereo cameras. While the engineers are pretty confident about the currently location, where the descent stage deposited Curiosity, they want to begin the process they will use for the rest of the mission, in which they examine a location first, and then drive to it. The steps of the first test drive are as follows: Curiosity will drive 3 meters forward (about the length of the rover), turn the wheels to the right, and drive Curiosity back a little less than that distance. The result will be a change in position of a couple of meters, and a change in direction of 90 degrees to the left. The process will take less than 30 minutes for Curiosity to perform. The MSL engineers planned to upload the driving instructions later on the 21st, for execution by Curiosity on the 22nd.

Landed into Gale Crater on Mars over August 5th/6th, NASA's 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 and . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: .


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