Sunday, February 20, 2011

Curiosity Mars Rover's Strong Robotic Arm

IMG Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Monitoring the movements of the arm while the rover was on a table tilted to 20 degrees to simulate a sloped surface on Mars.
IMG Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Monitoring the motions simulating maneuvers that the rover might make while on a sloped surface on Mars.
IMG Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After landing in August 2012, the mission will rely on it for repeated research activities. One set of moves crucial to the mission's success has never been tried before on Mars: pulling pulverized samples from the interior of Martian rocks and placing them into laboratory instruments inside the rover.

The arm can extend about 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) from the front of the rover body. Still to be added: the turret at the end that holds a percussive drill and other tools weighing a total of about 33 kilograms (73 pounds).

The titanium arm has two joints at the shoulder, one at the elbow and two at the wrist. Each joint moves with a cold-tolerant actuator, custom-built for the mission. The tools to be wielded by the arm include a magnifying-lens camera; an element-identifying spectrometer; a rock brush; and mechanisms for scooping, sieving and portioning samples. The mission is designed to operate on Mars for a full Martian year, which equals about two Earth years.

MDA Information Systems Inc.'s Space Division in Pasadena built and tested the arm, incorporating actuators from Aeroflex Corp., Plainview, N.Y.


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