Curiosity: “…And here’s one I took of me looking at me…”

In my last round-up on news from the Mars Science Laboratory briefings, only Pressed earlier today, I made mention of Curiosity testing the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), mounted on the science systems  turret at the end of the robot arm, and taking some self-portraits during the initial 6-day calibration and check-out period for the robot arm and the science instruments.

Little did I realise the first such picture had actually already been taken!

The first self-portrait from Curiosity:  MAHLI snaps the rover’s “face” of the mast-top array comprising the ChemCam, Mastcam and Navcam systems

The image was captured as the Mastcam took pictures of Curiosity’s turret on Sol 29, and captured a shot of MAHLI in order to check the dust cover over MAHLI’s sensitive lens, and ascertain the amount of dust on it and whether the dust would post a problem when the cover is finally opened.

The MAHLI image was taken at around the same time, and is hazy due to the protective cover, which is in place at the time the image was taken, being covered by a thin film of dust thrown-up during the landing phase of the mission covering it.

The image of the turret and MAHLI taken by the 34mm lens of Mastcam. The pink colouration on MAHLI is light catching the “glue” used in the imager’s lens system

This is liable to be the first of a series of remarkable and unique series of images from Curiosity.

Curiosity reports in this blog

Images courtesy of NASA / JPL.

Taking flight: the Birdland Grand Re-opening

When marimba rhythms start to play
Dance with me, make me sway
Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more.

This weekend marks the Grand Re-opening of Birdland Jazz Lounge, with an open invitation for you to join the celebrations!

I recently blogged about the return to SL of two long-time friends, Alma and Blysse, and the re-establishment of Birdland in SL – a place I long regarded as a second home and Second Life’s premier jazz / romantic dance venue.

Events marking the re-opening will be running right across Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September with a mix of DJ sessions, live singers, and the Birdland Burlesque Showgirls in All That Jazz.

The full schedule for the weekend is as follows (all times SLT):

Saturday September 8th:

  • 11:00 – Misfit DJ – live
  • 16:30 – All That Jazz – the Birdland Burlesque Showgirls
  • 17:00 – Live performance by Tamra Sands (Tamra Hayden)
  • 18:00 – All That Jazz – the Birdland Burlesque Showgirls
  • 18:30 – Misfit DJ – live

Sunday September 9th:

  • 11:00 – Misfit DJ – live
  • 14:00 – Live performance by Phil Setner
  • 15:00 – All That Jazz – the Birdland Burlesque Showgirls
  • 15:30 – Misfit DJ – live
  • 16:30 – All That Jazz – the Birdland Burlesque Showgirls
  • 17:00 – Live performance by Broook Baxton
  • 18:00 – All That Jazz – the Birdland Burlesque Showgirls
  • 18:30 – Misfit DJ – live

Birdland is truly a great venue where you’re assured a warm, friendly evening, good music and plenty of conversation and dancing. Formal wear is requested, otherwise the atmosphere is relaxed. So why not pop along over the weekend and sample it for yourself and help Alma and Blysse celebrate the official re-opening? I’m sure once you do, you’re liable to become a regular!

There’s More…

Birdland features the music of Misfit DJ throughout the week, with sessions as follows:

  • Mondays through Fridays: 19:00 SLT
  • Saturdays and Sundays: 11:00 and 19:00 SLT.

Formal dress is requested at all sessions.

Related Links

Curiosity: putting a hand on Mars

This last week marked Curiosity’s first month on Mars. It’s been a remarkable period, with the rover undergoing an extensive commissioning period (which will continue into next month, most likely), and returning some of the most amazing images from the surface of Mars we’ve ever seen.

Now the trek has begun, and Curiosity is well and truly on her way to Glenelg, a journey of some 400 metres (1300ft) which should be completed in October.

The trek to Glenelg began in earnest on Sol 24, with Curiosity travelling 21 metres (70 feet) – its longest single drive at that time – heading eastward away from Bradbury Landing. The following day, Sol 25 (August 31st), the rover had a “day off” from driving, which was spent  gathering environmental data and sky images using the Navcam system. Mastcam was also used to capture a 360-degree panorama of its new location.

A mosaic of Navcam images from Curiosity, captured on Aug 30th, showing the rover’s tracks back towards Bradbury Landing

Over the next few days, the rover continued to trek eastward, covering 30 metres (98 feet) on September 1st, in a drive to test its “visual odometry” in using images captured by the Navcam system to analyse the distance it has travelled. The day included further tests of CheMin system, while SAM took samples of the Martian air overnight on the 2nd/3rd Sept (Sol 27/28). The drive then resumed, with Curiosity covering over 30 metres (100ft) on Sol 29, including a manoeuvre to skirt sand.

Making tracks: a remarkable image captured by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showing the discolouration of Bradbury Landing and Curiosity as it heads out from the landing zone to explore Gale Crater

Arm Flexing

Having travelled a little under the quarter of the distance to Glenelg, Curiosity halted progress to commence the first six of ten planned consecutive days checking-out the robot arm and its turret of equipment. These will see the arm extensively tested through a series of “teach points” established during testing on Earth, and will include activities such as moving the turret to the inlet ports on the rover’s body to simulate the delivery of sample material to the on-board analytical instruments. The purpose of the tests is for mission engineers to get a better understanding for how the arm functions after the long cruise to Mars and in the different temperature and gravity environments of Mars when compared to the calibration testing carried out on Earth.

These operations – which form part of the overall arc of “characterisation tests” designed to check-out the rover and its range of science equipment and capabilities – were sequenced into the drive to Glenelg following the rover’s arrival on Mars. They require that Curiosity be parked at a specific angle relative to the sun, and on flat ground, which it reached on its Sol 29 drive.

The turret seen from the Matcam. In this image the Turret has been raised level with the 34mm lens of Mastcam and inverted. The pink colouration seen on the MAHLI instrument is the result of the “glue” used in the camera lens bonding process, which turns the inside of the lens pink-red under certain lighting. The wire brush is a dust removal tool which will clean rock surfaces prior to drilling

During the calibration tests, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a camera mounted on the turret, will be tested and calibrated, as will the Alpha X-ray Spectrometer. The arm’s ability to place instruments against rock samples will also be tested as the first steps in preparing the turret for drilling and soil sample collection activities as a part of its science mission.

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