NASA’s Curiosity rover marked its eleventh yr on Mars on Aug. 5, however the tireless spacecraft remains to be pushing itself to discover the Purple Planet.
Curiosity is working its method up via the foothills of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall (5 kilometers) mountain that was, billions of years in the past, dwelling to lakes and rivers.
The terrain is difficult, however the layering of the mountain supplies unprecedented insights into totally different eras of Mars‘ previous and the way the planet’s panorama modified over time.
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This quest just lately offered Curiosity and its staff of drivers, planners, engineers and scientists with its hardest climb but: a pointy 23-degree slope lined slippery sand and wheel-size rocks.
“In the event you’ve ever tried working up a sand dune on a seaside — and that is basically what we had been doing – you realize it is laborious, however there have been boulders in there as effectively,” mentioned Amy Hale, a Curiosity rover driver at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, in a assertion.
This mixture of options noticed the rover battle to make progress. An try on June 1 resulted in Curiosity unexpectedly driving over a rock, leading to a big motion of the suspension and triggering a security fault, stopping the drive, NASA mentioned.
Pictures from the rover’s navigation cameras posted in June deal with a couple of of the rear wheels whereas the indefatigable Curiosity tried its method up the slippery, rock-strewn incline.
Additional faulted drives, which might be triggered by wheels slipping an excessive amount of or being raised by rocks, led to the choice to make a detour to easier terrain about 492 ft (150 meters) away.
The preliminary route for Curiosity was deliberate out utilizing orbital photographs. Whereas NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can present high-resolution photographs, it can not reveal all of the options and hazards a whole lot of miles away on the floor under.
The rover’s planners and drivers subsequently use photographs from navigation and different cameras on the robotic to calculate methods previous and thru hazards and refine Curiosity’s path and defend the rover’s broken wheels.
The detour added a couple of weeks to the journey, however with no additional surprises lurking in anticipate Curiosity, the rover crested the slope, getting access to an intriguing, crater-pocked location nicknamed “Jau.”
“It felt nice to lastly recover from the ridge and see that incredible vista,” mentioned Dane Schoelen, Curiosity’s strategic route planning lead at JPL.
“I get to have a look at photographs of Mars all day lengthy, so I actually get a way of the panorama,” Schoelen added. “I typically really feel like I am standing proper there subsequent to Curiosity, wanting again at how far it has climbed.”
Curiosity is now persevering with its ascent of Mount Sharp to entry new, increased areas for investigation.