Status Report

MER 2003/Athena Update Week Ending June 8, 2002

By SpaceRef Editor
June 8, 2002
Filed under , ,

We had a breakthrough in the development of our RAT this week. RAT
stands for Rock Abrasion Tool, and it’s what we’ll use to grind the
dusty and weathered surfaces off of martian rocks, exposing fresh
rock underneath. It works well, and the RAT can grind about half a
centimeter into even very hard rock. The problem, though, is that
sometimes the dust created by all that grinding winds up filling the
hole. And that’s not exactly where we want dust to be, since the
whole point of the RAT is to expose the clean rock underneath.

So what to do? We’re running out of time, and big design changes are
out of the question at this point. The guys at Honeybee Robotics went
to work on it, and came up with a simple solution that sounded like
it ought to work: A new brush built into the RAT. The RAT already has
a part that revolves slowly as the grinding takes place, and if we
mounted a brush to this part and then spun it for awhile after the
grinding was done, we figured that maybe that would do the trick.
Turns out that it does. On Thursday we ran a test that was a
duplicate of one we had done several weeks ago that had filled the
hole with dust. The new brush cleared things right out, producing a
nice clean rock surface. And it’s a good thing it worked, too, since
we’ve got to start bolting RATs onto rovers in not too many more
weeks. It doesn’t matter how clever you are if you run out of time
before you run out of ideas.

SpaceRef staff editor.