After a treacherous journey, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has reached an space that’s thought to have shaped billions of years in the past when the Pink Planet’s water disappeared.
This area of Mount Sharp, the Curiosity rover‘s Martian stomping floor, is wealthy in salty minerals that scientists assume have been left behind when streams and ponds dried up. As such, this area may maintain tantalizing clues about how the Martian local weather modified from being just like Earth’s to the frozen, barren desert that Curiosity explores as we speak.
The salty minerals that enrich this space of Mount Sharp have been first noticed by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter years earlier than Curiosity touched down on the Martian floor in 2012.
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When Curiosity lastly received a close-up have a look at the terrain of Mount Sharp, the rover found a various array of rock sorts and indicators of previous water, together with popcorn-textured nodules and salty minerals similar to magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate (together with gypsum) and sodium chloride, which makes up odd desk salt.
After accounting for stresses on the rotary drill on the finish of the rover’s 7-foot (2 meters) arm that is used to pulverize rock samples for evaluation, the Curiosity staff chosen a rock nicknamed “Canaima” for the drilling and assortment of the mission’s thirty sixth drill pattern.
“As we do earlier than each drill, we brushed away the mud after which poked the highest floor of Canaima with the drill,” Kathya Zamora-Garcia, Curiosity’s undertaking supervisor, stated in a assertion. “The dearth of scratch marks or indentations was a sign that it could show tough to drill.”
The staff then stopped to see whether or not that posed a hazard to Curiosity’s arm. With a brand new drilling algorithm created to attenuate using percussion, which is a hammering movement utilized by drills to penetrate onerous surfaces, they determined to proceed, and no percussion was wanted, Zamora-Garcia defined.
The staff will now analyze items of the pattern collected from Canaima utilizing Curiosity’s Chemical and Mineralogy instrument and Pattern Evaluation at Mars instrument.
Curiosity’s summer time street journey
To achieve the sulfate-rich area, the Curiosity rover spent August journeying by means of a slim, sand-lined stretch known as Paraitepuy Go. It took over a month for Curiosity to securely navigate this treacherous terrain, which snakes between excessive hills. Though Paraitepuy Go is generally freed from sharp rocks that would injury the rover’s wheels, sand will be simply as hazardous for Curiosity; if its wheels lose traction, the rover may get caught.
The rover’s drivers additionally had one other problem to contemplate: The Martian sky was blocked by the hills round it, that means Curiosity needed to be rigorously positioned in order that its antennas pointed towards Earth and will stay in touch with Mars orbiters.
Because the staff rigorously navigated this path, they have been rewarded with some beautiful pictures from Curiosity’s Mastcam, significantly a panorama of the area captured on Aug. 14.
“We’d get new pictures each morning and simply be in awe,” Curiosity’s science operations coordinator, Elena Amador-French, who manages collaboration between the science and engineering groups, stated within the assertion. “The sand ridges have been attractive. You see good little rover tracks on them. And the cliffs have been stunning — we received actually near the partitions.”
Regardless of clearing Paraitepuy Go, Curiosity has a troublesome street forward. This salty area comes with its personal challenges — specifically, the rover’s working staff must account for the rocky terrain that makes it tougher to put all six of Curiosity’s wheels on secure floor.
If Curiosity is not secure, operators will not threat unfolding its drill-holding arm in case it clashes with jagged rocks.
“The increasingly more attention-grabbing the science outcomes get, the extra obstacles Mars appears to throw at us,” Amador-French stated.
Curiosity will proceed to discover this space, proving that after 10 years on Mars, the rover nonetheless has plenty of floor to cowl.
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