Astronomy Picture of the Day
October 3, 2013

Proximity Placement (Version II - Low TAU)
Proximity Placement (Version II - Low TAU)

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech - MER Curiosity - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

The NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory "Curiosity" used a new technique, which was fit to grant some additional autonomy to the Rover, in placement of the Tool-bearing Turret (which is located on its Robotic Arm - or "RA") during the 399th Martian Day, or Sol, of the mission at Gale Crater. This image comes from the Rover's Front Hazard Avoidance Camera (or "HazCam", for short), and it shows us the position of the aforementioned Turret, with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (or "APXS", for short) Instrument placed very close to the Target Rock.

This technique, called "Proximity Placement", uses the APXS as if it were a Radar for assessing how close the Instrument is to the Soil or to a Rocky Surface. The Rover can interpret the collected data and then it can autonomously move the Turret closer to the Target (if it is not yet close enough). This procedure will enable the placement of the Instrument much closer to Soil and Rocky Targets than it would have been feasible without running the risk of touching the Sensor, head to loose Soil, or needed extra days of having team members check out all the data and then command some Robotic Arm's movement in response.

The location visible here is at "Darwin," inside Gale Crater, where the Rover stopped for several days to examine a few Outcrops found along the route to Mount Sharp.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory - "Curiosity" b/w image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal and identified by the ID n. PIA 17363) has been additionally processed (where the additional processing has been based on the assumption that the Atmospheric Opacity - "TAU" - of the pictured area was LOW), Gamma corrected and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a normal - meaning "in the average" - human eye would actually perceive if someone were on the Surface of Mars, near the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory Curiosity, and then looked ahead, towards the Surface, Horizon and Sky over Gale Crater), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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