From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Engineers have successfully tested a new drill procedure on a duplicate rover on Earth that bypasses the problem in Curiosity’s drill.
The problem with the drill has been its feed mechanism, which pushes the drill bit downward as it drills its hole. The tests with the duplicate rover on Earth have instead had the drill bit fully extended and used the robot arm itself to push downward. It worked, but the problem on Mars is holding the drill bit perfectly straight and not slipping sideways. They are now doing a test with Curiosity to address this.
Curiosity touched its drill to the ground Oct. 17 for the first time in 10 months. It pressed the drill bit downward, and then applied smaller sideways forces while taking measurements with a force sensor. “This is the first time we’ve ever placed the drill bit directly on a Martian rock without stabilizers,” said JPL’s Douglas Klein, chief engineer for the mission’s return-to-drilling development. “The test is to gain better understanding of how the force/torque sensor on the arm provides information about side forces.”
This sensor gives the arm a sense of touch about how hard it is pressing down or sideways. Avoiding too much side force in drilling into a rock and extracting the bit from the rock is crucial to avoid having the bit get stuck in the rock.
Stay tuned for a Mars rover update, coming shortly!
Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.
This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.
Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652