This image released by NASA shows tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive on board NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. (AFP photo/ NASA/JPL)
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity rover has used a camera located on its arm to obtain the first self-portrait on the red planet.
The image was taken on a day when the Mars Hand Lens Imager and other instruments and tools on the turret were being checked using the rover’s Mastcams and Navcams, the Telegraph reported.
Curiosity extended its robotic arm Wednesday in the first of 6-10 consecutive days of planned activities to test the 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm and the tools it manipulates.
“We will be putting the arm through a range of motions and placing it at important teach points that were established during Earth testing, such as the positions for putting sample material into the inlet ports for analytical instruments,” said Daniel Limonadi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California
“These activities are important to get a better understanding for how the arm functions after the long cruise to Mars and in the different temperature and gravity of Mars, compared to earlier testing on Earth,” he noted.
Since the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft placed Curiosity inside Mars’ Gale Crater on Aug. 5 the rover has driven a total of 358 feet (109 meters).
The drives have brought it about one-fourth of the way from the landing site, named Bradbury Landing, to a location selected as the mission’s first major science destination, Glenelg.
Checkouts in the next several days will include using the turret’s Mars Hand Lens Imager to observe its calibration target and the Canadian-built Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer to read what chemical elements are present in the instrument’s calibration target.
“We’re still learning how to use the rover. It’s such a complex machine -- the learning curve is steep,” said JPL’s Joy Crisp, deputy project scientist for the MSL Project, which built and operates Curiosity.
After the arm characterization activities at the current site, Curiosity will proceed for a few weeks eastward toward Glenelg.
The science team selected that area as likely to offer a good target for Curiosity’s first analysis of powder collected by drilling into a rock.