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Space History for October 7


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3761 B.C.
The epoch (origin) of the modern Hebrew calendar occurred, the beginning of the Jewish Mundane Era.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_calendar#Anno_Mundi

1868
Cornell University opened in Ithaca, New York; initial student enrollment was 412.
http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/ezra/exhibition/founding/

1885
Born, Niels Bohr, physicist (atomic structure and quantum mechanics), Nobel Prize in Physics 1922 "for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them"

Niels Henrik David Bohr (7 October 1885 - 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist who made essential contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics 1922 "for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them."

His contributitons to physics include:
# Bohr's model of atomic structure.
# The theory that electrons travel in orbits around the atom's nucleus, with the chemical properties of the element being largely determined by the number of electrons in the outer orbits.
# The idea that an electron could drop from a higher-energy orbit to a lower one, emitting a photon (light quantum) of discrete energy (this became the basis for quantum theory).
# The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.
# The principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analyzed as having several contradictory properties.


https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1922/bohr-bio.html

1902
M. Wolf discovered asteroid #494 Virtus.

1906
Born, James E. Webb, NASA Administrator 1961-68
https://history.nasa.gov/Biographies/webb.html

1908
A. Kopff discovered asteroid #3687.

1913
Henry Ford instituted a moving assembly line, initially reducing the time to build a Model T from twelve and a half to six hours, and ultimately to 93 minutes. The technique revolutionized industrial production.
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/moving-assembly-line-at-ford

1919
KLM of the Netherlands (Royal Dutch Airlines) was founded, the oldest airline still operating under its original name (2017).
https://www.klm.com/corporate/en/about-klm/history/

1928
G. Neujmin discovered asteroid #2484 Parenago.

1931
The first infrared photograph was taken, in Rochester, New York, the "First Picture taken in absolute darkness" using newly developed Eastman Kodak film.
https://www.nypl.org/blog/2016/08/01/first-photograph-taken-in-dark

1936
H. L. Giclas discovered asteroid #2347.

1939
Y. Vaisala discovered asteroids #1526 Mikkeli, #2258 Viipuri, #2679 Kittisvaara, #2716 Tuulikki, #2885 and #2972.

1956
Died, Clarence Birdseye, considered the founder of the modern frozen food industry
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Birdseye

1958
The US manned space-flight program, previously called Project Astronaut, was renamed and approved as Project Mercury.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Mercury#Creation

1959 03:30:00 GMT
USSR's Luna 3 took the first photograph of the far side of the Moon at a distance of 63,500 km from the Lunar surface. The pictures were transmitted to Earth on 18 October as the probe got closer to home.

Luna 3, launched 4 October 1959, was the third spacecraft successfully sent to the Moon, and the first to return images of the Lunar far side. The spacecraft returned very indistinct pictures, but, through computer enhancement, a tentative atlas of the Lunar farside was produced. These first views of the Lunar far side showed mountainous terrain, very different from the near side, and only two dark regions which were named Mare Moscovrae (Sea of Moscow) and Mare Desiderii (Sea of Dreams). (Mare Desiderii was later found to be composed of a smaller mare, Mare Ingenii (Sea of Ingenuity) and other dark craters.)

The spacecraft was a cylindrical cannister with hemispherical ends and a wide flange near the top end. The probe was 130 cm long and 120 cm at its maximum diameter at the flange. Most of the cylindrical section was roughly 95 cm in diameter. The cannister was hermetically sealed and pressurized at 0.23 atmospheres. Solar cells mounted on the outside of the cylinder provided power to the chemical batteries inside the spacecraft. Shutters for thermal control were also positioned along the cylinder and were designed to open to expose a radiating surface when the interior temperature exceeded 25 degrees C. The upper hemisphere of the probe held the covered opening for the cameras. Four antennae protruded from the top of the probe and two from the bottom. Other scientific apparatus (micrometeoroid and cosmic ray detectors) was mounted on the outside of the probe. Gas jets for attitude control were mounted on the outside of the lower end of the spacecraft. Photoelectric cells were used to maintain orientation with respect to the Sun and Moon. The spacecraft had no rockets for course adjustment. The interior of the spacecraft held the cameras and film processing system, radio equipment, propulsion systems, batteries, gyroscopic units for attitude control, and circulating fans for temperature control. The spacecraft was spin stabilized and was directly radio-controlled from Earth.

The imaging system on Luna 3 was designated Yenisey-2 and consisted of a dual lens camera, an automatic film processing unit, and a scanner. The lenses were a 200 mm focal length, f/5.6 aperture objective and a 500 mm, f/9.5 objective. The camera carried 40 frames of temperature- and radiation resistant 35-mm isochrome film. The 200 mm objective could image the full disk of the Moon, and the 500 mm could take an image of a region on the surface. The camera was fixed in the spacecraft and pointing was achieved by rotating the craft itself. A photocell was used to detect the Moon and orient the upper end of the spacecraft and cameras towards it. Detection of the Moon signaled the camera cover to open and the photography sequence to start automatically. After photography was complete, the film was moved to an on-board processor where it was developed, fixed, and dried. On command from Earth, the film was moved to a scanner where a bright spot produced by a cathode ray tube was projected through the film onto a photelectric multiplier. The spot was scanned across the film and the photomultiplier converted the intensity of the light passing through the film into an electric signal which was transmitted to Earth. Frames were scanned with a resolution of 1000 lines, the transmission could be done at a slow rate for large distances from Earth and a faster rate at closer range.

After launch on an 8K72 (number I1-8) on a course over the Earth's north pole, the Blok-E escape stage was shut down by radio control from Earth at the proper velocity to put the Luna 3 on a figure-eight trajectory which brought it over the Moon and around the far side, which was sunlit at the time. Initial radio contact showed the signal from the probe was only about half as strong as expected and the interior temperature was increasing. The spacecraft spin axis was reoriented and some equipment shut down resulting in a drop in temperature from 40 degrees C to about 30 degrees C. At a distance of 60,000 to 70,000 km from the Moon, the orientation system was turned on and the spacecraft rotation was stopped. The lower end of the station was oriented towards the Sun, which was shining on the far side of the Moon. The spacecraft passed within 6,200 km of the Moon near the south pole at its closest approach at 14:16 UT on 6 October 1959 and continued on to the far side. On 7 October the photocell on the upper end of the spacecraft detected the sunlit far side of the Moon and the photography sequence started. The first image was taken at 03:30 UT at a distance of 63,500 km from the Moon's surface and the last 40 minutes later from 66,700 km. A total of 29 photographs were taken, covering 70% of the far side. After the photography was complete the spacecraft resumed spinning, passed over the north pole of the Moon and returned towards the Earth. Attempts to transmit the photographs to Earth began on 8 October but were believed to be unsuccessful due to the low signal strength. The photographs were scanned and 17 resolvable but noisy photographs were transmitted to ground stations by radio in facsimile form on 18 October 1959, as the spacecraft, in a barycentric orbit, returned near the Earth. The photographs were to be retransmitted at another point close to Earth but were not received. Contact with the probe was lost on 22 October. The probe was believed to have burned up in the Earth's atmosphere in March or April of 1960, but may have survived in orbit until after 1962.



First image of the far side of the Moon, taken by USSR's Luna 3
from http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/html/object_page/lu3_1.html
https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1959-008A

1961
S. Arend discovered asteroid #2866.

1963 20:02:00 GMT
NASA and the USAF launched X-15A Checkout/Opt Deg. Test/Technology mission # 92 in which Joe Engle reached a maximum speed of 4561 kph (Mach 4.21), and a maximum altitude of 23.713 km.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_X-15_flights

1964 07:28:00 GMT
USSR's Cosmos 47 returned to Earth, completing the Voskhod precursor flight.
https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1964-062A

1969
Born, Karen L. Nyberg PhD (at Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, USA), NASA astronaut (STS-124, ISS 36/37, 180 days total time in spaceflight), 50th woman in space

Astronaut Karen Nyberg PhD, STS-124 mission specialist, NASA photo (26 September 2007)
https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/nyberg-kl.pdf

1969
L. Chernykh discovered asteroid #3577.

1980
Purple Mountain Observatory discovered asteroid #2631 Zhejiang.

1985 10:00:08 PDT (GMT -7:00:00)
NASA's STS 51J (Atlantis 1, Shuttle 21) ended after flying a classified Department of Defense (DOD) mission.

STS 51-J was launched 3 October 1985. The launch was delayed 22 minutes 30 seconds due to a main engine liquid hydrogen prevalve close remote power controller showing a faulty "on" indication.

STS 51-J was the second Shuttle mission dedicated to the Department of Defense. It deployed the USA 11 and USA 12 military communications satellites on 4 October, both boosted into geostationary transfer orbit on single IUS (Intertial Upper Stage) booster. USA 11 was positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 12 deg W in 1986; 42 deg W in 1995. USA 12 was positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 180 deg E in 1994.

STS 51-J achieved a Shuttle record altitude which was still standing in May 1993.

STS 51-J ended on 7 October 1985 when Atlantis landed on revolution 64 on Runway 23, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Touchdown miss distance: 754.00 m. Rollout distance: 8,056 feet (2445 m). Rollout time: 65 seconds. Launch weight: Classified. Landing weight: 190,400 pounds. Orbit altitude: 319 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.5 degrees. Mission duration: four days, one hour, 44 minutes, 38 seconds. Miles traveled: 1.7 million. The orbiter was returned to Kennedy Space Center on 11 October 1985.

The flight crew for STS 51-J was: Karol J. Bobko, Commander; Ronald J. Grabe, Pilot; David C. Hilmers, Mission Specialist 1; Robert L. Stewart, Mission Specialist 2; William A. Pailes, Payload Specialist 1.


https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/archives/sts-51J.html

1995
Died, Gerard Henri de Vaucouleurs, French/American astronomer (galaxies)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%A9rard_de_Vaucouleurs

1999 13:51:00 GMT
The USAF launched Navstar 46 (USA 145) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the third GPS Block 2R satellite. SVN 46 replaced SVN 50 which had been damaged by rain on Pad 17 while being prepared for launch earlier in the year, and was placed in Plane D Slot 2.
https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1999-055A

2002 14:46:00 CDT (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 112 (Atlantis 26) for the International Space Station Flight 9A to install and activate the S1 (S-One) Truss.

STS 112 was launched 7 October 2002 on a flight delayed from 22 March, 4 April, 22 August, 28 September, and 2 October due to payload delays, then SSME problems. It docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on 9 October carrying a crew of five Americans and one Russian, undocked on 16 October, and landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 18 October 2002, ending the mission at the 10 day, 19 hour, 58 minute mark.

The STS 112 crew - Commander Jeff Ashby, Pilot Pam Melroy and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus, Piers Sellers, David Wolf and Fyodor Yurchikhin continued the on-orbit construction of the International Space Station with the delivery and installation of the S-1 (S-One) Truss. The S1, the third piece of the station's 11-piece Integrated Truss Structure, was attached to the starboard end of the S0 (S-Zero) Truss on Flight Day 4, which extended the truss system of the exterior rail line with a 14 meter, 13 ton girder. The crew also tested a manual cart on the rails. The cart, named CETA (Crew and Equipment Transportation Aid), was designed to increase mobility of crew and equipment during the later installation phases. The STS 112 crew performed three spacewalks (10 October, 12 October and 14 October) to outfit and activate the new component. The crew also transferred cargo between the two vehicles, and used the shuttle's thruster jets during two maneuvers to raise the station's orbit.

STS 112 was also the first shuttle mission to use a camera on the External Tank. The color video camera provided a live view of the launch to flight controllers and NASA TV viewers.



Pad 39B tracking camera view of Atlantis lifting off as STS-112, NASA photo
from https://www.spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-112/html/02pp1476.html
https://www.spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/archives/sts-112/index.html

2008
Asteroid 2008 TC3, 4.1 m (13 ft) diameter weighing 80 metric tons, entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded at an estimated 37 kilometers (23 mi) above the Nubian Desert in Sudan, the first time an asteroid impact was predicted prior to atmospheric entry.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_TC3

2012
NASA's Curiosity rover discovered a "bright object" in the sand at Rocknest, interpretations by scientists suggest the object is "debris from the spacecraft."

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 15:02:00 UTC (10:02AM EST) on 26 November 2011. The spacecraft flight system had a launch mass of 3,893 kg (8,583 lb), consisting of an Earth-Mars fueled cruise stage (539 kg (1,188 lb)), the entry-descent-landing (EDL) system (2,401 kg (5,293 lb) including 390 kg (860 lb) of landing propellant), and an 899 kg (1,982 lb) mobile rover with an integrated instrument package. On 11 January 2012, the spacecraft successfully refined its trajectory with a three-hour series of thruster-engine firings, advancing the rover's landing time by about 14 hours.

Selection of Gale Crater for the landing during preflight planning had followed consideration of more than thirty locations by more than 100 scientists participating in a series of open workshops. The selection process benefited from examining candidate sites with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and earlier orbiters, and from the rover mission's capability of landing within a target area only about 20 kilometers (12 miles) long. That precision, about a fivefold improvement on earlier Mars landings, made sites eligible that would otherwise be excluded for encompassing nearby unsuitable terrain. The Gale Crater landing site, about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, is so close to the crater wall and Mount Sharp that it would not have been considered safe if the mission were not using this improved precision.

Science findings began months before landing as Curiosity made measurements of radiation levels during the flight from Earth to Mars that will help NASA design for astronaut safety on future human missions to Mars.

The Mars rover Curiosity landed successfully on the floor of Gale Crater at 05:32 UTC on 6 August 2012, at 4.6 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude and minus 4,501 meters (2.8 miles) elevation. Engineers designed the spacecraft to steer itself during descent through Mars' atmosphere with a series of S-curve maneuvers similar to those used by astronauts piloting NASA space shuttles. During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slowed its descent with a parachute, then used retrorockets mounted around the rim of its upper stage. The parachute descent was observed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MRO_sees_Curiosity_landing.jpg for the image and some notes. In the final seconds of the landing sequence, the upper stage acted as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to land on its wheels. The touchdown site, Bradbury Landing, is near the foot of a layered mountain, Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons). Curiosity landed on target and only 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from its center.

Some low resolution Hazcam images were immediately sent to Earth by relay orbiters confirming the rover's wheels were deployed correctly and on the ground. Three hours later, the rover began transmitting detailed data on its systems' status as well as on its entry, descent and landing experience. On 8 August 2012, Mission Control began upgrading the rover's dual computers by deleting the entry-descent-landing software, then uploading and installing the surface operation software; the switchover was completed by 15 August. On 15 August, the rover began several days of instrument checks and mobility tests. The first laser test of the ChemCam on Mars was performed on a rock, N165 ("Coronation" rock), on 19 August.

In the first few weeks after landing, images from the rover showed that Curiosity touched down right in an area where water once coursed vigorously over the surface. The evidence for stream flow was in rounded pebbles mixed with hardened sand in conglomerate rocks at and near the landing site. Analysis of Mars' atmospheric composition early in the mission provided evidence that the planet has lost much of its original atmosphere by a process favoring loss from the top of the atmosphere rather than interaction with the surface.

In the initial months of the surface mission, the rover team drove Curiosity eastward toward an area of interest called "Glenelg," where three types of terrain intersect. The rover analyzed its first scoops of soil on the way to Glenelg. In the Glenelg area, it collected the first samples of material ever drilled from rocks on Mars. Analysis of the first drilled sample, from a rock target called "John Klein," provided the evidence of conditions favorable for life in Mars' early history: geological and mineralogical evidence for sustained liquid water, other key elemental ingredients for life, a chemical energy source, and water not too acidic or too salty.

Within the first eight months of a planned 23-month primary mission, Curiosity met its major objective of finding evidence of a past environment well suited to supporting microbial life.

On 7 October 2012, a mysterious "bright object" (image) discovered in the sand at Rocknest, drew scientific interest. Several close-up pictures were taken of the object and preliminary interpretations by scientists suggest the object to be "debris from the spacecraft." Further images in the nearby sand detected other "bright particles." The newly discovered objects are presently thought to be "native Martian material". (2015)

On 4 July 2013, Curiosity finished its investigations in the Glenelg area and began a southwestward trek toward an entry point to the lower layers of Mount Sharp. There, at the main destination for the mission, researchers anticipate finding further evidence about habitable past environments and about how the ancient Martian environment evolved to become much drier. As of 29 July 2014, the rover had traveled about 73% of the way, an estimated linear distance of 6.1 km (3.8 mi) of the total 8.4 km (5.2 mi) trip, to the mountain base since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay. (see also Where is the rover now?)

On 6 August 2013, Curiosity audibly played "Happy Birthday to You" in honor of the one Earth year mark of its Martian landing. This was the first time that a song was played on a foreign planet; making "Happy Birthday" the first song and Curiosity the first device used to play music on a foreign planet. This was also the first time music was transmitted between two planets. On 24 June 2014, Curiosity completed a Martian year (687 Earth days) on Mars.

On 26 September 2013, NASA scientists reported the Mars Curiosity rover detected "abundant, easily accessible" water (1.5 to 3 weight percent) in soil samples at the Rocknest region of Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater.

On 3 June 2014, Curiosity observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun, marking the first time a planetary transit has been observed from a celestial body besides Earth.

On 11 July 2015, Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photographed an extremely unusual high silica rock fragment dubbed "Lamoose" (image). The rock, about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across, is fine-grained, perhaps finely layered, and apparently etched by the wind. [Ed. note: If I were on Mars and had seen this "rock" I would have picked it up to turn it over to see what the other side looks like.] Other nearby rocks in that portion of the "Marias Pass" area of Mt. Sharp also have unusually high concentrations of silica, first detected in the area by the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) laser spectrometer. This rock was targeted for follow-up study by the MAHLI and the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). Silica is a compound containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz. It is a primary raw material for Portland cement, many ceramics such as earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, and is used in the production of glass for windows, bottles, etc. High levels of silica could indicate ideal conditions for preserving ancient organic material, if they are present. (Press release: NASA's Curiosity Rover Inspects Unusual Bedrock, issued 23 July 2015)

For more information about the Curiosity rover and its continuing science experiments and discoveries, visit NASA's Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity Web page or the JPL link below.

-Rover Details-

Curiosity has a mass of 899 kg (1,982 lb) including 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments, including equipment to gather and process samples of rocks and soil, distributing them to onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments. It inherited many design elements from previous rovers, including six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system, and cameras mounted on a mast to help the mission's team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes. The rover is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, builder of the Mars Science Laboratory, engineered Curiosity to roll over obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high and to travel about 200 meters (660 feet) per day on Martian terrain at a rate up to 90 m (300 ft) per hour.

Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), producing electricity from the heat of plutonium-238's radioactive decay. The RTG gives the mission an operating lifespan on the surface of "a full Mars year (687 Earth days) or more." At launch, the generator provided about 110 watts of electrical power. Warm fluids heated by the generator's excess heat are plumbed throughout the rover to keep electronics and other systems at acceptable operating temperatures. Although the total power from the generator will decline over the course of the mission, it was still providing 105 or more watts a year after landing; it is expected to still be supplying 100 watts after ten years.

Curiosity is equipped with several means of communication, an X band small deep space transponder for communication directly to Earth via NASA's Deep Space Network and a UHF Electra-Lite software-defined radio for communicating with Mars orbiters. The X-band system has one radio, with a 15 W power amplifier, and two antennas: a low-gain omnidirectional antenna that can communicate with Earth at very low data rates (15 bit/s at maximum range), regardless of rover orientation, and a high-gain antenna that can communicate at speeds up to 32 kbit/s, but must be aimed. The UHF system has two radios (approximately 9 W transmit power), sharing one omnidirectional antenna. This can communicate with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey orbiter (ODY) at speeds up to 2 Mbit/s and 256 kbit/s, respectively, but each orbiter is only able to communicate with Curiosity for about 8 minutes per day. The orbiters have larger antennas and more powerful radios, and can relay data to earth faster than the rover could do directly. Therefore, most of the data returned by Curiosity is via the UHF relay links with MRO and ODY. The data return via the communication infrastructure as implemented at MDL, and the rate observed during the first 10 days was approximately 31 megabytes per day. In 2013, after the first year since Curiosity's landing, the orbiters had already downlinked 190 gigabits of data from Curiosity.

Typically 225 kbit/day of commands are transmitted to the rover directly from Earth, at a data rate of 1–2 kbit/s, during a 15-minute (900 second) transmit window, while the larger volumes of data collected by the rover are returned via satellite relay. The one-way communication delay with Earth varies from 4 to 22 minutes, depending on the planets' relative positions.

-Science Payload-

In April 2004, NASA solicited proposals for specific instruments and investigations to be carried by Mars Science Laboratory. The agency selected eight of the proposals later that year and also reached agreements with Russia and Spain to carry instruments those nations provided. Curiosity carries the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars' surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers. More than 400 scientists from around the world participate in the science operations.

A suite of instruments named Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) analyzes samples of material collected and delivered by the rover's arm, plus atmospheric samples. It includes a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of carbon-containing compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements. Isotope ratios are clues to understanding the history of Mars' atmosphere and water.

An X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument called CheMin also examines samples gathered by the robotic arm. It is designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition.

Mounted on the arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager takes extreme close-up pictures of rocks, soil and, if present, ice, revealing details smaller than the width of a human hair. It can also focus on hard-to-reach objects more than an arm's length away and has taken images assembled into dramatic self-portraits of Curiosity.

Also on the arm, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer determines the relative abundances of different elements in rocks and soils.

The Mast Camera, mounted at about human-eye height, images the rover's surroundings in high-resolution stereo and color, with the capability to take and store high definition video sequences. It can also be used for viewing materials collected or treated by the arm.

An instrument named ChemCam uses laser pulses to vaporize thin layers of material from Martian rocks or soil targets up to 7 meters (23 feet) away. It includes both a spectrometer to identify the types of atoms excited by the beam, and a telescope to capture detailed images of the area illuminated by the beam. The laser and telescope sit on the rover's mast and share with the Mast Camera the role of informing researchers' choices about which objects in the area make the best targets for approaching to examine with other instruments.

The rover's Radiation Assessment Detector characterizes the radiation environment at the surface of Mars. This information is necessary for planning human exploration of Mars and is relevant to assessing the planet's ability to harbor life.

In the two minutes before landing, the Mars Descent Imager captured color, high-definition video of the landing region to provide geological context for the investigations on the ground and to aid precise determination of the landing site. Pointed toward the ground, it can also be used for surface imaging as the rover explores.

Spain's Ministry of Education and Science provided the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, plus ultraviolet radiation levels.

Russia's Federal Space Agency provided the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument to measure subsurface hydrogen up to 1 meter (3 feet) below the surface. Detections of hydrogen may indicate the presence of water bound in minerals.

In addition to the science payload, equipment of the rover's engineering infrastructure contributes to scientific observations. Like the Mars Exploration Rovers, Curiosity has a stereo Navigation Camera on its mast and low-slung, stereo Hazard-Avoidance cameras. The wide view of the Navigation Camera is also used to aid targeting of other instruments and to survey the sky for clouds and dust. Equipment called the Sample Acquisition/Sample Preparation and Handling System includes tools to remove dust from rock surfaces, scoop up soil, drill into rocks to collect powdered samples from rocks' interiors, sort samples by particle size with sieves, and deliver samples to laboratory instruments.

The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument Suite was a set of engineering sensors that measured atmospheric conditions and performance of the spacecraft during the arrival-day plunge through the atmosphere, to aid in design of future missions.



'Bright object' found on Mars by Curiosity rover, photo by NASA Curiosity rover
from https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/images/pia16230_MAHLI_Sol65-FOD-br2.jpg (larger image)
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16225.html
https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/


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