Curiosity’s lab begins analysis of rock powder

The Curiosity Rover begins analysis of the rock powder from the recent drilling activity:

Mars Science Laboratory: Lab Instruments Inside Curiosity
Eat Mars Rock Powder

PASADENA, Calif. – Two compact laboratories inside NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity have ingested portions of the first sample of rock powder ever collected from the interior of a rock on Mars.

Curiosity science team members will use the laboratories to analyze the rock powder in the coming days and weeks.

The rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments received portions of the sample on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23, respectively, and began inspecting the powder.

“Data from the instruments have confirmed the deliveries,” said Curiosity Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The powder comes from Curiosity drilling into rock target “John Klein” on Feb. 8. One or more additional portions from the same initial sample may be delivered to the instruments as analysis proceeds.

During a two-year prime mission, researchers are using Curiosity’s 10 science instruments to assess whether the study area in Gale Crater on Mars ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

More information about Curiosity at:



Check-up Image After Delivering Martian Rock Powder

The left Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity took this image of Curiosity’s sample-processing and delivery tool just after the tool delivered a portion of powdered rock into the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. This Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) tool delivered portions of the first sample ever acquired from the interior of a rock on Mars into both SAM and the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. The delivery to CheMin was during the 195th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Feb. 22, 2013). The delivery to SAM and subsequent repositioning of CHIMRA to present this side toward Mastcam, were on Sol 196 (Feb. 23, 2013).

The opening of CHIMRA’s portion delivery tube is visible inside the “C” shape at the center of the image, which is part of a wind guard. The opening is about 0.16 inch (4 millimeters) in diameter. Portions containing about half as much material as in an aspirin tablet were dropped through that opening into each instrument. The image was taken to check whether sample material remained in the tube opening after portion delivery.

The image has been white-balanced to show what the scene would look like if it were on Earth.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Copenhagen Suborbitals: Reddit AMA today (1pm PT) with Cameron Smith

Kristian von Bengtson of Copenhagen Suborbitals and Cameron Smith, their new collaborator on space suits, are doing a Reddit AMA today at 1 p.m. PT (4:pm ET) : Ask DIY Space Designers Kristian and Cameron Anything at 1 p.m. Pacific – Wired Science/

Here is an earlier post showing one of Cameron Smith’s suit designs: DIY Space Suit Dimensioning for a DIY Capsule Seat – Wired Science/


Sci-Tech: DARPA seeking next-gen VTOL vehicles

DARPA wants better vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing vehicles, particularly in these “four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity”.

DARPA Experimental Aircraft Program to Develop the
Next Generation of Vertical Flight

Higher speeds, increased efficiency, elegant designs are the
focus of new VTOL X-Plane

One of the greatest challenges of the past half century for aerodynamics engineers has been how to increase the top speeds of aircraft that take off and land vertically without compromising the aircraft’s lift to power in hover or its efficiency during long-range flight.

The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft make them ideal for a host of military operations. Currently, only helicopters can maneuver in tight areas, land in unprepared areas, move in all directions, and hover in midair while holding a position. This versatility often makes rotary-wing and other VTOL aircraft the right aerial platform for transporting troops, surveillance operations, special operations and search-and-rescue missions.

Compared to fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters are slower-leaving them more vulnerable to damage from enemy weapons. Special operations that rely on lightning-quick strikes and medical units that transport patients to care facilities need enhanced speed to shorten mission times, increase mission range, reduce the number of refueling events and, most important, reduce exposure to the adversary.

By their very design, rotary-wing aircraft that take off and land vertically have a disadvantage achieving speeds comparable to fixed-wing aircraft. Since its invention, engineers have attempted to overcome this design barrier but have encountered lower fuel efficiency and less lift capacity, controllability, simplicity, and reliability of design. While engineers have improved the speed of fixed-wing aircraft-achieving two and three times the speeds of jets designed since the 1960s-attempts to increase efficient VTOL aircraft speed have stalled.

“For the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. “To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity.”

“We have not made this easy,” he continued. “Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we’re looking for. The engineering community is familiar with the numerous attempts in the past that have not worked. This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds. The elegant confluence of these engineering design paradigms is where this program should find some interesting results.”

A Proposers’ Day will be held on March 14th.

The Broad Agency Announcement for the solicitation can be found at: