It’s a clean sweep for Curiosity — literally! NASA’s newest rover on Mars has recently used its Dust Removal Tool for the first time, clearing away a patch of rust-colored dust coating its latest target: a slab of rock called “Ekwir_1.”
The Dust Removal Tool, or DRT (yes, the rover’s cleaning instrument is called “dirt”) is a motorized brush with stainless steel wire bristles located on Curiosity’s multipurpose Robotic Arm turret — a veritable Swiss Army knife of planetary exploration tools.
By removing the top layer of dust, Curiosity will now be able to better investigate the composition of Ekwir_1 with its Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instruments, both of which are also mounted on the Robotic Arm turret.
The image above was captured on Jan. 6, 2013 (Sol 150) with the MAHLI instrument. A close-up of the central part of the cleared area can be seen below:
This image was taken from a distance of 1 centimeter, and shows approximately the minimum area that the DRT can clear away — about a 45 mm circle. See an image of the DRT and Robotic Arm in action here.
By the looks of these images, Curiosity’s high-tech DustBuster is working just fine.
“We wanted to be sure we had an optimal target for the first use,” said JPL’s Diana Trujillo, 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.”
Image (top): Curiosity cleared away a 6.5-cm-wide oval on a rock surface in Gale Crater (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)