Facelifts can sag. Botox is temporary. But modern science has a new way to return youth to weathered faces: the rock abrasion tool (RAT). If your dermatologist hasnt heard of it, ask your local Mars scientist.
Billions of years of exposure to the sun, atmosphere and extremely fine Martian dust has given Mars rocks a weathered "rind," or exterior layer. The RAT, part of the science-instrument package carried by the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, uses a diamond-tipped robotic grinding tool to scrape away this weathered exterior, revealing a fresh surface.
"Clearing away the dust and a weathered layer gives the science instruments access to the part of the rock that hasnt changed since it was formed billions of years ago," says Cornell University alumnus Paul Bartlett. An employee of New York engineering firm Honeybee Robotics, Bartlett has been working on the RAT since the first concept drawings from Cornell professor of astronomy Steven Squyres arrived in his fax machine three years ago.
David Brand | Cornell News
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