Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

You can’t tell a rock by its rind: How a tiny abrasion tool will help reveal geology of Mars

22.12.2003


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 hasn’t 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 hasn’t 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.


Spirit is scheduled to land on Mars on Jan. 3 at 11:35 p.m. EST. Opportunity will touch down on Jan. 25 at 12:05 a.m. EST.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., is managing the science instruments carried by the two rovers, with Squyres as principal investigator.

Access to the pristine rock interior is critical to understanding the history of the geology of Mars and to answering what Bartlett describes as the "big questions" to be solved by the rovers: Did water -- or even an environment suitable for life -- once exist on the red planet?

These big questions might be answered by a very small machine: The RAT weighs only 1 1/2 pounds and uses less power (30 watts) than most light bulbs. It is about the size of a soda can.

The RAT occupies the turret, or "hand," of the rover’s robotic arm, along with other rover science instruments for rock analysis, a microscopic imager and Mössbauer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometers. The agile arm, which has shoulder, elbow and wrist joints just like a human arm, presses the RAT up against a rock’s surface.

In just two hours, the RAT’s grinding wheel can shave off a disk about twice the diameter and thickness of a nickel from a hard rock surface. Two brushes sweep the resulting dust away from the hole to provide a clean surface for an up-close view.

Once the fresh surface is exposed, the imager and the spectrometers take over, peering through the abraded opening to perform a detailed analysis of the rock’s interior. So that scientists can learn about the processes that might have weathered the rock, the rover also records temperature and current readings from the RAT’s three motors while they grind away the exterior layer.

Bartlett notes that the breadth of his work on the RAT, which spans design, fabrication, assembly, testing and mission operations, "is a rare opportunity in engineering."

And working with Mars scientists also has stood out among his other assignments for Honeybee. One was building a robot for an art installation at Manhattan’s Whitney Museum of American Art. He discovered, he says, that "planetary scientists and avant-garde architects speak very different languages."

This release was prepared by Cornell News Service science-writer intern Kate Becker

David Brand | Cornell News
Further information:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Dec03/Mars.RAT.deb.html

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht A water treatment breakthrough, inspired by a sea creature
27.11.2018 | Yale University

nachricht Research project AutoAdd: Paving the way for additive manufacturing for the automotive industry
22.11.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>