From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published September 20, 2012 06:23 AM

Curiosity Mars Rover has its first target for analysis, a large rock named Jake Matijevic!

You've heard about the new rover we landed on Mars recently and all about its analytical abilities. The plan is for the rover to poke at and scan samples of Martian soils and rocks and to analyze samples of these to see what they are made of.

 

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Curiosity has driven up to a football-size rock that will be the first for the rover's arm to examine.

Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from the rover's landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments.

The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic." Jacob Matijevic (mah-TEE-uh-vik) was the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory and the project's Curiosity rover. He passed away Aug. 20, at age 64. Matijevic also was a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity.

Curiosity now has driven six days in a row. Daily distances range from 72 feet to 121 feet (22 meters to 37 meters).

"This robot was built to rove, and the team is really getting a good rhythm of driving day after day when that's the priority," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The team plans to choose a rock in the Glenelg area for the rover's first use of its capability to analyze powder drilled from interiors of rocks. Three types of terrain intersect in the Glenelg area -- one lighter-toned and another more cratered than the terrain Curiosity currently is crossing. The light-toned area is of special interest because it retains daytime heat long into the night, suggesting an unusual composition.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read more at NASA JPL.

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