From Maps to More Science

by Cat Ellen, contributing writer

Mapping the route to climb the flanks of Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater (Photo taken from the NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mapping the route to climb the flanks of Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater (Photo taken from the NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Forget the “Prime Directive,” it’s celebration for the “Prime Destination!” Achievement unlocked: NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has arrived at Mount Sharp. After two years of travel on Mars, Curiosity heads into a phase of focused laboratory work.

“Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us.”

Travel on Mars has not been without its surprises. When it was discovered that sharp rocks poked holes in four of Curiosity’s six wheels at a much faster rate of wear and tear than initially planned, the rover’s team of scientists and engineers used imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to adjust travel routes. Milder terrain solved some of the wheel issues, although some valley floors had to be avoided where the thicker sand caused greater slippage. And there’s no Mars Rover Assistance tow service that can be called out to rescue Curiosity.

Shifting gears from driving plans to scientific investigations has the Rover team examining various layers in the mountain to determine whether ancient Mars had the environment favorable to support life, even if it may have just been for microbes.

The view from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover looking out at "Amargosa Valley" at the base of Mount Sharp (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The view from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover looking out at “Amargosa Valley” at the base of Mount Sharp (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Want More?

  • Mars Exploration Program
  • Twitter: @MarsRovers, Spirit and Oppy
  • Twitter: @MarsCuriosity
  • Twitter: @NASAJPL
  • Facebook: NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
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