Curiosity rover flexes robot arm for first time

CBS News

Curiosity's high-tech robot arm was unlimbered for the first time Monday and engineers said it appeared to operate flawlessly. (Credit: NASA)
The Curiosity Mars rover flexed its 7-foot-long robot arm for the first time Monday, moving it through a commanded series of steps to verify the basic operation of the complex appendage.

Equipped with a camera, a powerful drill, a spectrometer and a scoop for collecting rock and soil samples, the arm's motors and all five joints were successfully tested when the arm was briefly unstowed and extended. When the checkout was complete, the arm was lowered and locked back down in preparation for the rover's first planned test drive later this week.

"We have had to sit tight for the first two weeks since landing, while other parts of the rover were checked out, so to see the arm extended in these images is a huge moment for us," Matt Robinson, the lead engineer for arm testing and operations, said in a NASA statement. "The arm is how we are going to get samples into the laboratory instruments and how we place other instruments onto surface targets."

Said Louise Jandura, chief engineer of Curiosity's sample acquisition system: "It worked just as we planned. From telemetry and from the images received this morning, we can confirm that the arm went to the positions we commanded it to go to."

A single low-resolution image was posted by the Curiosity team, showing the arm extended with its 66-pound tool turret clearly visible with the martian horizon in the distant background. A telecon to update reporters on the status of Curiosity's on-going checkout is planned for Tuesday.