It’s onerous to imagine, however Mars Curiosity Rover has been on Mars doing its factor for 11 years. And, so what’s it doing to rejoice? Heading up a hill, making one in all its hardest climbs ever.
The “little rover that might” lately confronted a very tough spot in its journey up Mount Sharp. That’s a 5 km tall mountain within the heart of Gale Crater, the place Curiosity landed in 2012. The trail hasn’t been a straightforward one. The newest portion of the journey challenged the rover with a steep 23-degree incline, wheel-sized rocks, and slippery sand pits. In accordance its controllers, it’s been a tough few months. However, the rover has made it by means of, to this point.
“Should you’ve ever tried operating up a sand dune on a seaside—and that’s primarily what we have been doing—you already know it’s onerous, however there have been boulders in there as effectively,” stated Amy Hale, one in all Curiosity’s drivers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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On the Street to Jau
The Jau area is one “pit cease” on the street up Mount Sharp. It’s pitted with dozens of small craters. Mission scientists don’t get to see that many craters unexpectedly, so it was an ideal place to check them. Nonetheless, attending to Jau posed risks the mission drivers needed to plan round. Hale and different “rover planners” write a whole bunch of traces of code to command the rover every day. They look at photos from the rover to search for hazards which may cease or sluggish it down. Everybody retains an eye fixed out for sand pits or different obstacles, too.
Drivers then work with mission scientists to determine what the subsequent strikes will likely be. They ship revised code to Mars in a single day so the rover can implement it the subsequent day. That’s what occurred with the traverse to Jau. Curiosity wasn’t in any hazard whereas getting there, however drivers needed to deal with sudden occasions when the rover would cease because of one thing unexpected. They known as these “faults” and there have been loads of them alongside the best way to Jau.
At one level, the rover drivers and scientists programmed a detour to assist the rover keep away from some troublesome terrain. That added a couple of weeks on the journey. “It felt nice to lastly recover from the ridge and see that incredible vista,” Schoelen stated. “I get to have a look at photos of Mars all day lengthy, so I actually get a way of the panorama. I usually really feel like I’m standing proper there subsequent to Curiosity, wanting again at how far it has climbed.”
Jau area is a crater cluster slopes of Mount Sharp. A minimum of one crater is full of sand and damaged rock slabs pave the realm. Curiously, the Jau space, like all the Mount Sharp area, was as soon as populated by lakes, rivers, and streams. Then, the local weather modified and formed the Mars we see as we speak. Curiosity is sampling the rocks and different supplies right here to assist scientists perceive what that early surroundings was like. It finds sturdy proof for water and waves on historic Mars.
In Jau, the rocks and sand have been probably a part of the sediments laid down up to now. It’s additionally probably that a few of these sands have been deposited by the motion of the Martian winds. The crater cluster in all probability fashioned when a meteor broke up within the ambiance and showered the floor with fragments of the unique. Now, planetary scientists need to know if the salt-enriched floor terrain had an impact on the best way these craters fashioned and eroded after the influence.
Mount Sharp (its official title is Aeolis Mons), is definitely the central peak of an influence crater. Its made up of layers of eroded sedimentary rock laid down earlier than the crater fashioned. Different layers of fabric within the crater may have come from later lake deposits. Scientists estimate that a few of these layers obtained deposited at the least 3 to three.5 billion years in the past. Now they need to know if that lake may have hosted some type of life in these historic instances.