(Image credit NASA JPL)
Curiosity extended its robotic arm Wednesday in the first of 6-10 consecutive days of planned activities to test the seven foot long arm and tools it manipulates.
Daniel Limonadi of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena said "We will be putting the arm through a range of motions and placing it at important 'teach points' that were established during Earth testing, such as the positions for putting sample material into the inlet ports for analytical instruments. These activities are important to get a better understanding for how the arm functions after the long cruise to Mars and in the different temperature and gravity of Mars, compared to earlier testing on Earth."
Since the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft placed Curiosity inside Mars' Gale Crater on Aug. 5 (Aug. 6 EDT), the rover has driven a total of 358 feet. The drives have brought it about one-fourth of the way from the landing site, named Bradbury Landing, to a location selected as the mission's first major science destination, Glenelg.
After the arm characterization activities at the current site, Curiosity will proceed for a few weeks eastward toward Glenelg. The science team selected that area as likely to offer a good target for Curiosity's first analysis of powder collected by drilling into a rock. Curiosity is one month into a two-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions for microbial life.