'Curiosity' reaches out on Mars, touches a rock named Jake

This photo shows a rock about 8 feet in front of the Curiosity rover on Mars. The rock is named for the late Jake Matijevic, who was the surface operations systems chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory Project.

NASA

This photo shows a rock about 8 feet in front of the Curiosity rover on Mars. The rock is named for the late Jake Matijevic, who was the surface operations systems chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory Project.

The Curiosity rover has reached out and made personal contact with a Martian rock. Last week, the Mars rover team decided to inch closer to the nearby rock, believed to be a good bet for first-ever tests of Curiosity's "contact instruments," according to NASA.

The rock, like so much else within Curiosity's purview, has been given a name: Jake Matijevic. Ashwin Vasavada, who is part of the rover team, said Monday that Matijevic was a legendary engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who recently died.

"In the last few days, the rover has been analyzing Jake Matijevic," Vasavada said. "After searching for a few days, we found this rock that had all the characteristics necessary to cross-compare the measurements from our arm-mounted instruments with those of the mast-mounted instruments."

Instruments on the rover are expected to be used for examining Jake, according to NASA, which will then cross-check results.

Next?

"The next near-term objective is to find a patch of loose soil that will be used to test our scooping ability and to clean off our sampling tools," said Vasavada, deputy project scientist with the team.

Here's more on Matijevic, who is now immortalized on Mars.

Jake Matijevic was the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory and the Curiosity rover. He died Aug. 20, at age 64, according to NASA. He also was a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity. A recent obituary said Matijevic had suffered throughout his life with asthma and upper respiratory ailments.

'Curiosity' reaches out on Mars, touches a rock named Jake 09/24/12 [Last modified: Monday, September 24, 2012 10:35pm]

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