The latest report from the clean room where Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory) is being built. This week, the robotic arm was attached to the rover.


Ben Thoma: Hi. I'm Ben Thoma, the Mechanical Lead here for the Assembly, Test and Launch Operations of Curiosity, the next Mars rover.

So, just recently we installed the robotic arm. It was a major milestone for the project, not only for the engineers that worked on this arm for years, designing, assembling it and finally delivering it, but for the project as a whole. Having the arm on the rover is a huge accomplishment. Now we'll be able to begin the testing of that arm while it's on Curiosity.

It's a very complicated, very tricky maneuver to actually put the arm on the rover. We use a crane from above because this arm is so heavy. We need to delicately bring it over and actually secure it to the front of the rover.

We're going to go through a series of electrical and functional tests where the arm will actually be exercised. It'll move around. We'll start to learn how to use the arm with Curiosity.

The arm is really one of the fundamental parts of our ability to gather the science. At the end of the arm there are several different instruments. There's a camera. There's a spectrometer. And there's a drill that will deliver samples up to the other instruments on the rover. So without the arm we wouldn't be able to do a good portion of the science that we're going to Mars for.

There's still a lot of activities that we have ahead of us, a lot of testing.

While we're working on the rover down here in this facility, we have the cruise stage, which is the device that actually takes the entire spacecraft to Mars. That's currently going through a thermal vacuum test up in our 25-foot space simulator.

This is a big morale boost. Over the last couple of months we've finally seen some of the major pieces of hardware get put on this rover. Going back to the last couple of years, we've focused a lot of our attention on the inside of the rover, all the electronics, the telecommunications, the thermal control system. Just in the last couple of months, as you've seen, we've installed the mobility system, the remote sensing mast, which sits up on top of the rover with its cameras, and now finally the arm.

The rover finally is starting to look like it does in all these beautiful animations we've seen. So the team is very excited at these major accomplishments and the ability to move forward with testing.

I'm Ben Thoma, and this has been your Building Curiosity update.
View all Videos