The Curiosity Rover and the Mars Science Lab it conveys continue to creep across a quiet desert plain under the thin atmosphere of our nearest planetary neighbor. The lab is now about halfway from its touchdown point at Bradbury Landing, on its way to the first extensive research objective, Glenelg.
Along the way, NASA's Geek Hero Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been carefully combing every image they are getting from the elaborate array of the imaging systems on the platform, and they have found a rock they want to take a closer look at, naming the rock after a revered colleague, the late Jake Matijevic.
Follow me out into the tall grass for more speculation and observation about the unprecedented science that NASA is preparing to undertake on Mars.
The first thing, then, is that the science team must examine the data from the high resolution imaging systems. The image above, from the Mast Camera looking to the left of the rover's direction of travel on Sol 41, helps illustrate how hard that must be. But, after just a few Sols of travel, NASA scientists have found that target rock, and have named the investigational target after an esteemed, late colleague. Here is that rock:
The drive by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity during the mission's 43rd Martian day, or sol, (Sept. 19, 2012) ended with this rock about 8 feet (2.5 meters) in front of the rover. The rock is about 10 inches (25 centimeters) tall and 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide. The rover team has assessed it as a suitable target for the first use of Curiosity's contact instruments on a rock. The image was taken by the left Navigation camera (Navcam) at the end of the drive.To my untutored eye, that rock screams "What the Hell am I doing here!" but I'm guessing that the scientists at the JPL have better informed opinions about why we should further investigate this particular lump of Mars. But these are serious scientists doing serious science. I am bracing myself for revelatory findings.
The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic." This commemorates Jacob Matijevic (1947-2012), who was the surface operations systems chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the project's Curiosity rover. He was also a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity.
Curiosity's contact instruments are on a turret at the end of the rover's arm. They are the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer for reading a target's elemental composition and the Mars Hand Lens Imager for close-up imaging.
Here are my previous diaries in this series inspired by NASA's new roving science lab on Mars, listed in the order I have posted them.