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06.12.2009

The Rover Gets Strong-Armed

In this photo, two engineers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Alliance Spacesystems are standing in a white room on either side of the Mars Science Laboratory rover's robotic arm. They are dressed in white 'bunny suits,' and are covered from head to toe wearing white face masks to protect the equipment. The arm is bent at the 'elbow' and raised high in the air about two feet higher than the engineer on the left. The engineer on the right holds a control box that maneuvers the arm for testing.

Engineers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Alliance Spacesystems are testing the range of motion of the Mars Science Laboratory rover's robotic arm joints. The instruments are not mounted on the arm's turret yet, but special weights have been placed on it for testing.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover will sport the biggest, toughest robotic arm the red planet's ever seen! This super-limb must lift 34 kilograms (almost 75 pounds) of instruments to reach out and test martian rocks and soil, which may hold clues about whether Mars could have supported life. Longer than most people are tall, the arm also provides heavy-duty support for the sampling drill. The drill requires a lot of "muscle" to hold it still on the rock. But, the arm isn't all brawn - it must delicately deposit the precious drill samples inside the rover for further testing.

So, how does the rover train to do all this heavy-lifting? Team members build two identical arms. They just completed the one that will stay here on Earth. They will use it for practice, in preparation for the one that will go to Mars on the rover. One strong arm down, and one to go!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Related Video:
In this one-minute video clip, two engineers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Alliance Spacesystems are working in a white room with the Mars Science Laboratory rover's robotic arm. They are dressed in white 'bunny suits,' and are covered from head to toe wearing white face masks to protect the equipment. The video is sped up to show the arm moving in various positions: at the rover arm 'wrist,' 'elbow,' and 'shoulder.' The whole arm also pivots in a half circle as the engineers move around the arm.In this one-minute video clip, two engineers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Alliance Spacesystems are working in a white room with the Mars Science Laboratory rover's robotic arm. They are dressed in white "bunny suits," and are covered from head to toe wearing white face masks to protect the equipment. The video is sped up to show the arm moving in various positions: at the rover arm "wrist," "elbow," and "shoulder." The whole arm also pivots in a half circle as the engineers move around the arm.

QuickTime 15.3 MB (no audio)   |   QuickTime 6.9 MB (no audio)

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