The NASA rover Curiosity had a good weekend. It zapped its first rock with a laser, wiggled its robotic arm and shifted its wheels.
But leaders on the Mars Science Laboratory mission on Tuesday revealed a small hiccup: One of the rover’s wind sensors appears to be damaged after it sent back wonky data.
The REMS, or Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, is an instrument designed to provide daily Martian weather reports. The ability to record those reports may be hindered slightly by the damaged sensor, scientists said during a teleconference from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“We may never know what caused this damage,” said Ashwin Vasavada, the mission’s deputy project scientist. “We know the sensors were fine when we tested them in cruise.”
One possible explanation is that rocks were kicked up on the instrument’s exposed cicuit boards during landing, causing damage to the wires, said Vasavada.
Scientists will still be able to read the weather through one of the rover’s other sensors, but the damaged sensor will hinder their ability to detect wind speed and direction from certain angles.
“We still retain nearly the full capability” to read the weather, said Vasavada.
On Wednesday, Curiosity will go for its first test drive. It will drive a few meters forward, turn, then drive backward. The rover could start the trek toward its first science target, Glenelg, as early as next week.
JPL will post Curiosity's daily weather reports soon on this Web site.
-- Tiffany Kelly, Times Community News