LOS ANGELES, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Curiositystretched its robotic arm Monday for the first time since landing on Mars as the rover prepared to gather samples from the planet's surface.
The 2.1-meter-long arm would maneuver a turret of tools, including a camera, a drill, a spectrometer, a scoop and mechanisms for sieving and portioning samples of powdered rock and soil, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California announced.
"We have had to sit tight for the first two weeks since landing, while other parts of the rover were checked out, so to see the arm extended in these images is a huge moment for us," said Matt Robinson, lead engineer for Curiosity's robotic arm testing and operations at the JPL.
According to Robinson, it will need weeks of testing and calibrating arm movements before the arm delivers the first sample of Martian soil to instruments inside the rover.
The JPL said Monday's maneuver checked motors and joints by un-stowing the arm for the first time, extending it forward using all five joints, then stowing it again in preparation for the rover's first drive.
"It worked just as we planned," said the JPL's Louise Jandura, sample system chief engineer for Curiosity.
"From telemetry and from the images received this morning, we can confirm that the arm went to the positions we commanded it to go to," Jandura said.
JPL Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Project Manager Richard Cook said scientists would use the sampling system in the weeks ahead and begin the first test drive of the rover later this week.
Curiosity's robotic arm is one of the rover's most powerful tool kits. At the end of the arm is a bulky 30-km turret that is nearly 60 cm wide.
According to the JPL, the robotic arm's drill can dig 2.5 cm into Martian rocks, its scoop and other gear will be used for collecting samples, the camera will allow microscopic analyses, and the spectrometer will determine the composition of rock and surface targets.
"We'll start using our sampling system in the weeks ahead, and we're getting ready to try our first drive later this week," said Richard Cook, NASA's deputy project manager for the Curiosity mission.
Curiosity's robotic arm is one of 10 high-tech instrument suites built into the car-size rover, which will allow scientists to study Mars like never before.
Curiosity touched down on Mars on Aug. 5 and is expected to spend at least two years exploring its Gale Crater landing site. The rover is designed to determine if the region could have ever supported microbial life, according to the JPL.
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