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It’s a bit dusty on Mars, and so the Curiosity rover has now cleaned up a little spot. For the first time ever, the newest Mars rover has used its Dust Removal Tool.
“The underlying rock and the windblown dust on top of it are made of different material,” the @Mars_Curiosity Twitter feed explained. “Analysis to come.”
It will be interesting to find out what the dark circular features are in the rock. The target areas that was cleaned is named “Ekwir_1,” and it is on a rock in the “Yellowknife Bay” area of Mars’ Gale Crater. The rover team is also evaluating rocks in that area as potential targets for first use of the rover’s hammering drill in coming weeks.
The Dust Removal Tool is a motorized, wire-bristle brush designed to prepare selected rock surfaces for enhanced inspection by the rover’s science instruments. It is built into the turret at the end of the rover’s arm, visible in the image below.
The science team said that choosing an appropriate target was crucial for the first-time use of the Dust Removal Tool.
“We wanted to be sure we had an optimal target for the first use,” said Diana Trujillo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., the mission’s activity lead for the Dust Removal Tool. “We need to place the instrument within less than half an inch of the target without putting the hardware at risk. We needed a flat target, one that wasn’t rough, one that was covered with dust. The results certainly look good.”
The Dust Removal Tool was built by Honeybee Robotics, which also built the Rock Abrasion Tool for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.