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02.11.2010

Engineers Flex Curiosity's Robotic Arm and Tools

Robotic Arm Testing Image #2
Robotic Arm Testing Image

Engineers just completed the first end-to-end test for Curiosity's robotic arm and sampling tools, "flexing" the arm to see if it plays "nice" with the rest of the system.

Engineers exercised this test arm, which is identical to the robotic arm that will actually be attached to Curiosity. The real arm is being built in cleanrooms, and will be attached to Curiosity later in the year.

"We've tested the whole shebang," said Daniel Limonadi, an engineer doing robotic arm testing. "We've tested the hardware, software and electronics together to ensure that Curiosity's brain talks to its 'arm' and 'hands' so we can use it exactly as needed once it is on Mars."

In a few months, engineers will begin the next phase of fitness testing: drilling rocks and practicing using the arm as if the rover were on Mars. Curiosity is scheduled to launch in the autumn of 2011. Until then, engineers will continue to "workout" the robotic arm and tools so they will be in top shape for exploring Mars.


All Related Images
  • In the middle of this image, the long robotic arm rises straight up toward the ceiling of the lab where it is being tested. The arm is white, and is flexible at several gray round 'joints.' Red wires dangle and are strung along various parts of the arm. At the end of the arm is a complicated set of instruments. In the background, a yellow crane for lifting equipment up to 2 tons (4,000 pounds) can slide along the ceiling to place heavy equipment anywhere in the room. A metal garage-like door and computer stations lie behind the area where the arm is extended.
    Robotic Arm Testing Image #1
  • In the middle of this picture, the robotic arm is bent at nearly a 90-degree angle, with the instruments on the end of the arm reaching to the right. Behind the arm is the laboratory where it is being tested. One engineer is hidden behind a bank of computers, while another with a goatee stands watching in the back, beneath a yellow ceiling crane. Both engineers wear white lab coats. Metal lab equipment is scattered throughout the room.
    Robotic Arm Testing Image #2
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In this video clip, the camera swerves around the room where testing is underway for Curiosity's robotic arm. The camera zooms in on the robotic arm as the arm moves up from the stowed position and then rotates a set of tools at the end of the arm. A JPL engineer is crouched down behind the arm in the background and gives a thumbs-up once the tools stop rotating.In this video clip, engineers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory test and "flex" Curiosity's robotic arm and tools. The video shows the arm in the stowed and upright positions and rotating its tools.

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In the middle of this image, the long robotic arm rises straight up toward the ceiling of the lab where it is being tested. The arm is white, and is flexible at several gray round 'joints.' Red wires dangle and are strung along various parts of the arm. At the end of the arm is a complicated set of instruments. In the background, a yellow crane for lifting equipment up to 2 tons (4,000 pounds) can slide along the ceiling to place heavy equipment anywhere in the room. A metal garage-like door and computer stations lie behind the area where the arm is extended. Full Size Image
In this picture, the robotic arm for the Mars Science Laboratory undergoes testing in a laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The arm and tools will reach out and test martian rocks and soil. This arm is identical to the flight hardware that will actually be attached to Curiosity.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
In the middle of this picture, the robotic arm is bent at nearly a 90-degree angle, with the instruments on the end of the arm reaching to the right. Behind the arm is the laboratory where it is being tested. One engineer is hidden behind a bank of computers, while another with a goatee stands watching in the back, beneath a yellow ceiling crane. Both engineers wear white lab coats. Metal lab equipment is scattered throughout the room.Full Size Image
In this picture, the robotic arm for the Mars Science Laboratory is bent at nearly a 90-degree angle. The robotic arm is undergoing testing in a laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The arm and tools will reach out and test martian rocks and soil. This arm is identical to the flight hardware that will actually be attached to Curiosity.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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