But first, get your geek on. This silent film (it is fun to make very faint whistling noises like the thin winds of Mars while watching) begins with this description.
This video clip shows the first Martian material collected by the scoop on the robotic arm of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, being vibrated inside the scoop after it was lifted from the ground on Oct. 7, 2012. The clip includes 256 frames from Curiosity's Mast Camera, taken at about eight frames per second, plus interpolated frames to run at actual speed in this 32-frames-per-second version. The scoop was vibrated to discard any overfill. Churning due to vibration also serves to show physical characteristics of the collected material, such as an absence of pebbles.The actual video starts at 0:22. As NASA vibrates the scoop, the dust and sand of the sample begin to flow as if liquid, rather than dry solids. I could watch that part over and over, as the wave patterns on the surface of the sample are somehow beautiful to me.
But a distraction caused an interruption in the processing of the sample seen here as well as the gathering of the additional scoops to complete the planned cleansing of the MSL scientific instruments I discussed in this previous On Mars diary. Follow me out into the tall grass to find out more about that distraction.
It was literally a shiny object.
There is no detail of this mission that NASA is not observing closely and recording in meticulous detail, particularly with the multiple imaging systems available. The science team's obsessive attention to every possible observation produced unintended consequences when a miniscule piece of plastic or plastic like material flaked off of the rover and was spotted on the soil near where the robot arm was digging with the scoop. USA Today's breathless coverage gasped:
Ooh, shiny! NASA's Curiosity rover has spotted something curious on the Martian soil, likely "a shred of plastic" from the rover, says the space agency. Still, NASA is taking a hard look at the mystery object.NASA, I thought, handled it with a tad more dignity:
Investigation of a small, bright object thought to have come from the rover may resume between the first and second scoop. Over the past two sols, with rover arm activities on hold, the team has assessed the object as likely to be some type of plastic wrapper material, such as a tube used around a wire, possibly having fallen onto the rover from the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's descent stage during the landing in August.NASA has resumed the previously planned cleansing operation as preparations conclude for the approach to the interim investigation site, Glenelg.
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.