Saturday, September 1, 2012

Curiosity Mission in Pictures, Part 2: The Build & Launch Prepare

Mars Science Laboratory Mission's Curiosity Rover (Right) This stereoscopic anaglyph image was created from a left and right stereo pair of images of the Mars Science Laboratory mission's rover, Curiosity. The scene appears three dimensional when viewed through red-blue glasses with the red lens on the left. The image was taken May 26, 2011, in Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission is scheduled to launch during the period Nov. 26 to Dec. 18, 2011, and land the rover Curiosity on Mars in August 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

(Right) HQ image of the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), it is a downward-looking camera which took about 4 frames per second at nearly 1,600 by 1,200 pixels per frame resolution for about the final two minutes before Curiosity touches down on Mars last August 2012.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif., supplied MARDI and two other camera instruments for the mission. A pocket swissknife provides scale for the image.
(Left) MARDI was included among the collection of science instruments on Phoenix to provide information about the geographic context of land forms around the landing zone. MARDI was designed and built to acquire a series of wide-angle, color images of the landing site during the final three minutes of the descent to the surface of Mars. 
These images would have supplemented images taken from orbit to help scientists understand whether the landing site is representative of the rest of Mars's northern plains. The camera incorporates an innovative electronics design to enable high-quality scientific data acquisition in a very compact package. It weighs about one pound, less than any previous camera sent to Mars, and is also extremely conservative of power, using only three watts during data acquisition. Credit:

(Right) Another image of The MARDI descent imager is a fixed-focus color camera affixed onto the rover's chassis, and pointed toward the ground. The camera was built to capture 4,000 raw frames, or 800 seconds of the descent.
(Left) Just few seconds before the "touch down", this image captured by MARDI descent imager, it shows the heat shield quickly separated and thrown away to the ground as the craft dangling under the supersonic, after that the 100-pound parachute, slows down the rover and it's "crane" below 200 miles per hour until the rover descent using 21 foot long nylon tethers to the Martian surface.

(Up) The Sample Acquisition, Processing, & Handling (SA/SPaH) subsystem is responsible for the acquisition of rock and soil samples from the Martian surface and the processing of these samples into fine particles that are then distributed to the analytical science instruments, SAM and CheMin. The SA/SPaH subsystem is also responsible for the placement of the two contact instruments, APXS and MAHLI, on rock and soil targets. SA/SPaH consists of a Robotic Arm and turret-mounted devices on the end of the arm, which include a drill, brush, soil scoop, sample processing device, and the mechanical and electrical interfaces to the two contact science instruments.

(Right) SA/SPaH also includes drill bit boxes, the Organic Check Material (OCM), and an observation tray, which are all mounted on the front of the rover, and inlet cover mechanisms that are placed over the SAM and CheMin solid sample inlet tubes on the rover top deck.Curiosity's Robotic Arm is a 5 degree-of-freedom manipulator that is used to place and hold the turret-mounted devices and instruments on rock and soil targets, as well as manipulate the turret-mounted sample processing hardware. The 5 degrees of freedom are provided by a set of rotary actuators known as the shoulder azimuth joint, the shoulder elevation joint, the elbow joint, the wrist joint, and the turret joint.The joints are connected by structural elements with long links connecting the shoulder and elbow joints (the upper arm link) and connecting the elbow and wrist joints (the forearm link). When fully extended straight ahead in the rover forward drive direction, the center of the turret of the robotic arm is 6 feet from the front of the rover body. At the end of the Robotic Arm is the turret structure on which 5 devices are mounted. The outer diameter of the turret plus the installed devices is approximately 2 feet. Two of these devices are the science contact instruments APXS and MAHLI. The remaining three devices are associated with sample acquisition and sample preparation function: the Powder Acquisition Drill System (PADS), Dust Removal Tool (DRT), and the Collection and Handling for Interior Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA). The robotic arm can meet its positioning requirements for targets inside a volume called the robotic arm work space. The work space volume is an upright cylinder approximately 31 inches in diameter, 39 inches high, positioned 41 inches in front of the front body of the rover, and extending to 8 inches below the surface when the rover is on a smooth flat terrain. Source:

(Right) Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The hand lens is an essential tool of human geologists. Usually carried on a string around the neck, the hand lens helps a geologist in the field identify the minerals in a rock. The robotic geologist Curiosity will carry its own equivalent of the geologist's hand lens, the Mars Hand Lens Imager.MAHLI will provide earthbound scientists with close-up views of the minerals, textures, and structures in Martian rocks and the surface layer of rocky debris and dust. The self-focusing, roughly 4-centimeter-wide (1.5-inch-wide) camera will take color images of features as small as 12.5 micrometers, smaller than the diameter of a human hair. MAHLI employs both white light sources, similar to the light from a flashlight, and ultraviolet light sources, similar to the light from a tanning lamp, making the imager functional both day and night. The ultraviolet light will be used to induce fluorescence to help detect carbonate and evaporite minerals, both of which indicate that water helped shape the landscape on Mars. Source:

(Right) Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument Suite (SAM). The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite takes up more than half the science payload on board the Curiosity rover and features chemical equipment found in many scientific laboratories on Earth. Sample Analysis at Mars will search for compounds of the element carbon, including methane, that are associated with life and explore ways in which they are generated and destroyed in the Martian ecosphere.Actually a suite of three instruments, including a mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph, and tunable laser spectrometer, Sample Analysis at Mars will also look for and measure the abundances of other light elements, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, that are associated with life.The mass spectrometer will separate elements and compounds by mass for identification and measurement. The gas chromatograph will heat soil and rock samples until they vaporize, and will then separate the resulting gases into various components for analysis. The laser spectrometer will measure the abundance of various isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in atmospheric gases such as methane, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. These measurements will be accurate to within 10 parts per thousand. Source:

(Left) The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, largest of the 10 science instruments for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, will examine samples of Martian rocks, soil and atmosphere for information about chemicals that are important to life and other chemical indicators about past and present environments.NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., built SAM. The instrument actually includes three different laboratory instruments for analyzing chemistry, plus mechanisms for handling and processing samples. SAM will examine gases from the Martian atmosphere, as well as gases that ovens and solvents pull from powdered rock and soil samples. This schematic illustration shows major components of the microwave-oven-size instrument, which was installed into the mission's rover, Curiosity, in January 2011. Credit:

(Left) The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), is one of the first instruments sent to Mars specifically to prepare for future human-safe exploration. The size of a small toaster or six-pack of soda, RAD will measure and identify all high-energy radiation on the Martian surface, such as protons, energetic ions of various elements, neutrons, and gamma rays. That includes not only direct radiation from space, but also secondary radiation produced by the interaction of space radiation with the Martian atmosphere and surface rocks and soils. Source:
(Up) JPL Scientists inspect the test rover.

(Up) In the high bay of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, spacecraft technicians transfer the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission onto the aft of the Curiosity rover (upside down at right) for a fit check with the aid of the MMRTG integration cart. The MMRTG then will be removed and installed on the rover for launch at the pad. (NASA/Cory Huston).

(Up) In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rover Curiosity sits near the spacecraft's backshell (right), and the rocket-powered descent stage (center). (NASA/Jim Grossmann).

(Right) JPL engineers prospecting Curiosity's wheels after installation. Six new wheels were installed onto the rover on June 28 and 29, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., where the rover is being assembled. The Detailed image of Mars Science Laboratory Rover's wheel with tread pattern which will leave an impression on the Martian surface spelling "JPL" in morse code (·--- ·--· ·-··). These wheels are 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter, making them larger than the wheels of a car. Each wheel has its own motor, giving the rover independent six-wheel drive. The rover can swerve and turn in place a full 360 degrees. The suspension system is based on the "rocker-bogie" system, which was used on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and the earlier Pathfinder missions. This system allows the rover can roll over large rocks and dips without tipping over. The rover can also climb steep hills, up to 45 degrees. Curiosity's wheels have "cleats," similar to those soccer players have on their shoes, which provide grip and prevent the rover from slipping while going over rocks or climbing up hills of soft sand.

(Left) This image shows NASA's Mars Science Laboratory heat shield, and a spacecraft worker at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. It is the largest heat shield ever built for descending through the atmosphere of any planet. NASA JPL.
(Left) Built at Lockheed Martin's Denver facility, the heat shield on the Mars Science Laboratory’s aeroshell is the ‘wind’ facing side during entry of the capsule. Because of its large size, the heat shield is subjected to approximately 105,000 pounds of compressive force distributed across its surface.The MSL Entry Descent and Landing Instrumentation (MEDLI) suite on the heat shield (pictured) will measure heat shield temperatures, surface recession and atmospheric pressures as the aeroshell descends through the Martian atmosphere. MEDLI was developed by NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Ames Research Center.

(Right) At the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, integration is complete between the rocket-powered descent stage and Curiosity (tucked beneath), is complete and everything wrapped up for launch. (NASA/Kim Shiflett).
(Right) In October of 2011, the camera captures a unique view of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as a technician separates the overhead crane from the cruise stage after it was lifted onto a rotation stand. The cruise stage provides solar power, thrusters for navigation, and heat exchangers to the rover during its nine-month flight from Earth to Mars.(NASA/Glenn Benson).
(Right) In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians inspect beneath NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission aeroshell, (containing the rover Curiosity), which has been mated to the cruise stage. (NASA/Glenn Benson).
(Right) In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians work beneath NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission aeroshell, (containing the compact car-sized rover Curiosity), and putting their almost final touches which has been mated to the cruise stage. The cruise stage provides solar power, thrusters for navigation, and heat exchangers to the rover during its flight from Earth to Mars. redOrbit.
(Up) As NASA JPL & MSL engineers expected when they designed the software, it operates as it should be, passing from one software-stage to another, the rover finally landed safely on Mars Surface with almost 100% operation capability. The image shows a detailed high definition exploded view of the Mars lander.

(Up) Exploded view of the five major stages of the MSL spacecraft: 1 Cruise stage, 2 Backshell, 3 Descent stage, 4 Rover(Curiosity), 5 Heatshield, 6 Parachute. Wikipedia.

Rover Probes Mars for Habitability
End of Part 2..

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