NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover completes 4,000 days on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has achieved a outstanding milestone by finishing 4,000 “sols,” or Purple Planet days, since touchdown on the Purple Planet again in 2012. Contemplating the troublesome Martian surroundings, Curiosity continues to be in good condition and continues to carry out thrilling science experiments, even after such a very long time.

The rover not too long ago drilled its thirty ninth pattern after which dropped the pulverized rock into its onboard laboratory for detailed evaluation. Scientists say the newly drilled pattern could add to its flood of proof.

As a key a part of NASA’s seek for life on Mars, the rover has been amassing proof of minerals, rocks, and different components of the surroundings formed by water. The rover’s purpose is to review whether or not historic Mars had the situations to assist microbial life.

For this, the rover has been step by step ascending the bottom of 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) Mount Sharp. The layers of the mountain have been fashioned in numerous durations of Martian historical past and provide a report of how the planet’s local weather modified over time.

The latest pattern got here from a goal nicknamed “Sequoia,” which might make clear how the local weather and habitability of Mars developed as this area grew to become enriched in sulfates. These minerals are possible fashioned in salty water evaporating as Mars first started drying up billions of years in the past. This discovery is a big step in direction of understanding how Mars’ liquid water disappeared for good.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used the drill on the end of its robotic arm to collect a sample from Sequoia.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used the drill on the tip of its robotic arm to gather a pattern from Sequoia. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“The varieties of sulfate and carbonate minerals that Curiosity’s devices have recognized within the final 12 months assist us perceive what Mars was like so way back. We’ve been anticipating these outcomes for many years, and now Sequoia will inform us much more,” mentioned Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s undertaking scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists try to know the traditional local weather of Mars by learning its minerals. Of their latest work, they used information from Curiosity’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument to find a magnesium sulfate mineral known as starkeyite. This mineral is related to particularly dry climates like Mars’ trendy local weather.

The staff believes that the sulfate minerals have been initially fashioned in salty water that evaporated billions of years in the past, after which these minerals reworked into starkeyite because the local weather continued drying to its current state. This discovering helps scientists to higher perceive how Mars developed into its current state.

Curiosity has endured a harsh journey of practically 20 miles (32 kilometers) throughout a punishingly chilly surroundings bathed in mud and radiation since 2012, nevertheless it nonetheless stays robust.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured this 360-degree panorama using its Navcams at a location where it collected a sample from a rock nicknamed “Sequoia.”
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured this 360-degree panorama utilizing its Navcams at a location the place it collected a pattern from a rock nicknamed “Sequoia.” Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Nonetheless, the rover is going through a minor difficulty with a digicam on Mastcam, thought-about one in every of its most important “eyes” of Curiosity, and engineers are at present working to resolve them. Every of Mastcam’s two cameras supplies coloration photos of the rover’s environment and helps scientists decide the composition of rocks by analyzing the wavelengths of sunshine or spectra they replicate in numerous colours.

To carry out this evaluation, Mastcam makes use of filters on a wheel that rotates below every digicam’s lens, however since September nineteenth, the left digicam’s filter wheel has been frozen between positions. This has affected the standard of the mission’s uncooked or unprocessed photos, however NASA engineers try to fit it again in place.

“If unable to nudge it again all the best way, the mission would depend on the higher-resolution 100 mm focal size proper Mastcam as the first color-imaging system,” reads a NASA weblog. “Because of this, how the staff scouts for science targets and rover routes could be affected: The appropriate digicam must take 9 occasions extra photos than the left to cowl the identical space. The groups additionally would have a degraded capacity to look at the detailed coloration spectra of rocks from afar.”

Together with efforts to nudge the filter again, mission engineers are intently monitoring the rover’s nuclear energy supply. In the long run, Curiosity’s nuclear energy supply continues to dwindle, however the staff stresses that the rover nonetheless has sufficient power to function for a lot of extra years.

As well as, repeated use, mud, and wind are additionally slowly sporting down the rover’s drill system and robotic arm joints. However software program updates have fastened bugs and added new capabilities to Curiosity, too, making lengthy drives simpler for the rover and decreasing wheel put on that comes from steering.

In the meantime, the staff is making ready for a break of a number of weeks in November. It’ll freeze communications with the rover throughout photo voltaic conjunction when Mars flies behind the solar from the angle of Earth.

Plasma from the Solar can work together with radio waves, probably interfering with instructions throughout this time, so the company all the time stops sending instructions to its Mars robots right now. Engineers are leaving Curiosity with a to-do record for these subsequent few weeks, after which interval communications can safely resume.

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