Sol 34 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: MAHLI Optics10 September 2012
Over a month into the mission, there are still cheers at JPL when first-time activities are completed successfully. Last night, the latest successes included the first Chemin X-ray diffraction pattern (of an empty sample cell), and the first MAHLI image with its dust cover open. Previous images through MAHLI's dust cover window had much lower contrast, probably because dust settled onto it during MSL's landing. So there was some concern that the dust raised by the landing rockets had gotten under the cover onto MAHLI's optics. The beautifully clear MAHLI image received yesterday showed that any such dust contamination was insignificant, and that the camera is ready to go. So the Sol 34 plan included many MAHLI images of calibration and other targets on the rover, as part of a thorough checkout of the arm pointing. As MAHLI/MARDI Payload Uplink Lead for the first shift last night, I had a lot of MAHLI command sequences to keep track of, but it wasn't very difficult because the arm checkout had already been run on the MSL testbed (nearly identical rover in a lab at JPL) and the sequences built and tested. The checkout includes a mosaic of MAHLI images looking under the rover, to look for any signs of damage incurred during landing. I left JPL when my shift was over at 5 AM, and got enough sleep this morning that I think I have made the transition onto Mars time.