Washington: NASA’s Curiosity moves its robotic arm for the first time after it landed on Mars two weeks ago to begin a two-year mission.
The 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop, and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.
“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,” said Matt Robinson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lead engineer for Curiosity’s robotic arm testing and operations.
“The arm is how we are going to get samples into the laboratory instruments and how we place other instruments onto surface targets,” he noted.
Weeks of testing and calibrating arm movements are ahead before the arm delivers a first sample of Martian soil to instruments inside the rover.
Monday’s maneuver checked motors and joints by unstowing the arm for the first time, extending it forward using all five joints, then stowing it again in preparation for the rover’s first drive.
“It worked just as we planned. 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,” said JPL’s Louise Jandura, sample system chief engineer for Curiosity.