Curiosity set down at Bradbury Landing (see below) on Mars at 10:32 PM PDT on 5 August 2012 and has finished her first hundred Sols.
The image below maps out the route from Bradbury Landing to the mixed terrain at Glenelg, which marks the first major destination for the rover.
Curiosity spent the first three weeks checking out her equipment. The discolored and disturbed area around the landing site resulted from the blast of the rocket engines that settled Curiosity on the surface. While there, she used her Laser and ChemCam on a rock called “Coronation” to obtain some early measurements.
Then she started moving. By Sol 30, Curiosity was more than 100 yards from where she landed, and began testing her robotic arm.
At the end of testing the arm, Curiosity was five weeks into her two years of planned exploration. She then set out on a drive of 20 sols to a site called “Rocknest”.
The center of the 360 degree panorama (below) is due South. Mount Sharp (in the center of Gale Crater) is off to the left. “Rocknest” is off to the right. The edges of the image are due North. Click on the image to enlarge.
While at “Rocknest”, Curiosity spent almost five weeks exploring. Here are some of the highlights:
Below are two images. On the left is a picture of one of the trenches left by the scoop on the robotic arm. To the right is a close up of the scoop (1.5 x 2.5 inches) filled with the fine dust and sand from “Rocknest”.
Mars rover Curiosity has completed initial experiments showing the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii, with significant amounts of feldspar, pyroxene and olivine.
A few days ago, she resumed her journey toward Glenelg.
Earlier this week, Curiosity used its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to record the ultraviolet (UV), violet, visible and near-infrared spectra from a rock called Coronation. The rock was bombarded with 30 laser pulses, and the light recorded by three spectrometers.
Viewing the enlarged image, minor elements titanium and manganese show in the insert on the left in the 398-to-404-nanometer range, and Hydrogen shows up in the right hand insert with carbon (from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere). Hydrogen was only present in the first laser shot, indicating it was present only in the surface material.
The preliminary analysis shows the rock to probably be basalt, a common volcanic rock on Mars. Coronation is about 8 centimeters across and was located about 1.5 meters from Curiosity (prior to its drive yesterday).
Two sols ago, Curiosity fired its laser at the fist sized rock called “Coronation”, ChemCam (Chemistry Camera) recorded the light from the elements vaporized by the laser and analyzed it with three spectrometers. The small square in the image is 8 mm across.
One question that this test will answer is whether the composition of the vaporized rock changed during the sequence of 30 laser pulses. If so, it could indicate that there was dust on the surface prior to the rock beneath being vaporized.
ChemCam is the first instrument capable of analyzing the elemental make up of material on Mars. Previous instruments on Spirit and Opportunity could take spectral data of rock minerals in the infrared and with alpha particle scattering and X-rays:
Curiosity is also equipped with an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer.
ChemCam was developed, built and tested by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by France’s national space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and research agency, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
Below is the first image showing the extension of the robotic arm. The 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) arm maneuvers a turret of tools including a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil.