To avoid stains krocky cliffs, the mission took an alternative route up Mount Sharpe.
NASA’s Curiosity rover spent most of March climbing the Greenhound Pediment, a flat slope covered with gravelly sandstone. The rover briefly ascended the northern face of this object two years ago; now on the south side of the pediment, Curiosity returned to the pediment to explore it more fully.
But on March 18, the mission team saw an unexpected change of terrain ahead and realized they needed to turn around: the road to Curiosity was paved with windswept stones or artifacts than they had ever seen in nearly 10 years of rover. on the Red Planet.
Earlier during the Ventifacts mission, the Curiosity wheels were chewed. Since then, rover engineers have found ways to slow wheel wear, including a traction control algorithm to reduce how often they need to evaluate wheels. And they are also planning routes for rovers that avoid traveling on such rocks, including these latest vents, which are made of sandstone – the hardest type of rock Curiosity has encountered on Mars.
Their scaly-looking team was dubbed the “alligator reference”. Although the mission explored the area with orbital images, it was necessary to examine these rocks in close-up to identify the Ventifactors.
“It was clear from the Curiosity photos that it wasn’t going to be good for our circles,” said Curiosity Project Manager Megan Lynn at NASA’s Southern California Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which heads the mission. “It will be slow and we would not be able to implement best rover control practices.”
The rocks that go in the opposite direction are impassable – they just should not be crossed, given how difficult the path will be and how old they will be the wheels of the rover.
So the mission is planning a new course for the rover as it continues to explore Mount Sharpe, a 3.4-mile (5.5-kilometer) mountain that Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. study various sedimentary layers that were formed by water billions of years ago. These layers help scientists understand whether microscopic life could have survived in an ancient Martian environment.
The Greenhound Gable is a wide sloping plain at the base of Mount Sharpe that stretches for about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter. Curiosity scientists first spotted it in orbital images before the rover landed in 2012. The pediment acts as a separate element on this part of Mount Sharpe, and scientists wanted to understand how it formed.
It is also close to the Gediz-Wallis ridge, which may have formed when debris flowed down the mountain. Curiosity will always remain in the lower foothills of Mount Sharpe, where there is evidence of ancient water and environments that have been habitable in the past. To drive about a mile (1.5 kilometers) of the pediment to collect images of the Gediz Wallis ridge would be a way to study material from the highest reaches of the mountain.
“From afar, we can see boulders the size of a car that were transported from the higher levels of Mount Sharpe – perhaps by water relatively late in the wet age of Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, a Curiosity project scientist with JPL. “We really don’t know what they are, so we wanted to see them up close.”
The road that was less driven
Over the next few weeks Curiosity would descend from the pediment to a place he had previously explored: a transition zone between a clay-rich zone and a zone with more salt minerals called sulfates. Clay minerals formed when the mountain was wetter, strewn with streams and ponds; salts may have formed as Mars ’climate dried up over time.
“It was really cool to see the rocks that saved the time when the lakes dried up and were replaced by streams and dry sand dunes,” said Abigail Freman, deputy scientist for the Curiosity project at JPL. “I’m very interested to see what we find if we continue to climb this alternative route.”
Curiosity’s wheels will be in a safer place if it leaves the terrain, but engineers are focusing on other signs of wear of the rover’s robotic arm carrying the drill. Last year, the brakes on the two joints of the hands stopped working. However, each joint has extra parts to ensure that the hand can hold samples of drilling rocks. The team is exploring the best ways to use the hand to ensure that these extra parts continue to work for as long as possible.
For more information on Curiosity visit:
News Media contacts
Andrew the Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
Karen Fox / Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-358-1501
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org