It’s been a big step for robot-kind this week as Curiosity tests out its gadgets. NASA’s Mars rover has been equipped with powerful technology to help on its Red Planet mission. In the last few days, Curiosity has zapped its first rock and flexed its robotic arm for the first time.
To mark Curiosity’s 13th day on Mars, NASA announced their laser gun target practice a success. The rover vaporised its target by shooting 30 pulses, composed of a million watts of energy, over a 10 second period at the Martian rock now known as ‘Coronation’. With the help of a combined chemistry-camera instrument (ChemCam) on board, the laser will analyse the chemical composition of the rock.
As for its robotic limb, the seven-foot-long arm must be tested in preparation for its first soil sampling. But this is more than just a soil-grabbing implement; equipped with a drill, a scoop, a spectrometer and a camera, this robotic arm will analyse its samples for signs of microbial life (past or present).
And it doesn’t stop there. The Curiosity rover is set to make its first test drive this week after its landing two weeks ago. According to one of NASA’s software engineers, the rover's entire range of motion must be tested and its wheels aligned and straightened. Due to set off on Day 16, Curiosity moves ever closer to its final destination, Mount Sharp, located 4.3 miles (7km) away from the landing site.
Written by Jennifer Harris