Mars-brush used by rover Curiosity to sweep Red Dust

First Posted: Jan 08, 2013 02:05 PM EST

Mars Exploration Rover Curiosity used another of its many tools for the first time: the brush! Which is really just doing that, cleaning the floor, in this case select Mars rocks. Its a sophisticated, space-certified, motorized, wire-bristle brush though, attached on the turret at the end of the rover's arm. Its first use was on the 150th Martian day of the mission (Jan. 6, 2013) to clear away dust from part of a flat rock.

Scientists from NASA explain that the brush can be used to remove dust so that the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which are also located in that same turret, can collect information that would have been inaccessible from a dust-covered rock.

"Choosing an appropriate target was crucial for the first-time use of the Dust Removal Tool," NASA officials explained in a recent statement. "The chosen target, called "Ekwir_1," is on a rock in the "Yellowknife Bay" area of Mars' Gale Crater. The rover team is also evaluating rocks in that area as potential targets for first use of the rover's hammering drill in coming weeks."

"We wanted to be sure we had an optimal target for the first use," added Diana Trujillo of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the head of Dust Removal Tool operations. "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."

The Dust Removal Tool was constructed by Honeybee Robotics in New York, a company that has already experience with Mars-brushes, supplying them for the other two NASA rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, as well.

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