Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 16 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Wiggling Wheels

22 August 2012

First the bad news: The REMS (meteorology experiment) team confirmed that two out of 3 wind sensors on one of the two booms on the remote sensing mast are permanently damaged and cannot be used. They are getting good wind data from the other boom and are working on getting as much information as possible from the one working sensor on the other boom. The most likely explanation for the damage is that the descent rockets threw dirt up on the top of MSL during landing, but it will be a while before we can take pictures (using the camera on the arm) to confirm this. The other sad news is that one of the leaders of the engineering team, Jake Matijevic passed away last weekend. I worked with Jake on the Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner project over 15 years ago, and again on the Mars Exploration Rover project. I enjoyed every interaction I had with him, and along with the rest of the MSL team will miss his contributions to the latest, most ambitious rover project.

And now the good news: More cheers and applause today as MSL successfully deployed its arm and wiggled its wheels in preparation for its first drive. The first drive was planned today, and everyone is anxious to see the results tomorrow morning. It will be a short (3 m) drive, then a turn in place followed by another short drive, intended to check out the mobility system. If all goes well, we will be able to plan a longer (up to 10 m) drive next. After the drive is complete, the rover will take a bunch of images to determine exactly where it ended up, and to allow more observations to be targeted from the new location. ChemCam continues to work well, returning data of better quality than expected. Roger Wiens, the ChemCam Principal Investigator, will summarize early results during a press conference tomorrow at JPL.

Ken