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The Dust Removal Tool (DRT) is designed to help the Mars Science Laboratory expose the natural surfaces of Martian rocks obscured by layers of pervasive Martian dust. The DRT was integrated with the MSL rover in early 2011 and began a series of successful surface operations shortly after the rover landed at Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012. It has been used frequently to examine areas of potential scientific interest, prior to drilling, analysis with ChemCam, or other contact science.
The DRT is compact and high-capability. It is contained within a cylinder 154 mm long and 102 mm in diameter, and has a mass of 925 grams. Using a single brushless DC motor, the DRT removes dust from an area 45 mm in diameter. The mechanism features a high reduction single-stage planetary gear box and a hinged brush block, both of which incorporate lessons learned from previous Mars missions.
The DRT belongs to a special class of robotic mechanisms designed to interact with unstructured extraterrestrial surface objects and environments. During the dust removal process, a set of brushes articulate to maintain surface contact as they rotate at high speed. The wide range of rock surface characteristics along with severe resource constraints makes the DRT solution a significant contribution for its simplicity and robust design.
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