10 Years After Landing, NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Still Has Drive – NASA Mars Exploration

Despite signs of wear, the intrepid spacecraft is about to begin an exciting new chapter of its mission as it climbs a Martian mountain.

Ten years ago today, a jetpack landed NASA’s Curiosity rover on the Red Planet, beginning the SUV-sized explorer’s search for evidence that billions of years ago, Mars had the prerequisites to support microscopic life.

nASA’s Curiosity rover turns 10 NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover landed on the Red Planet 10 years ago to answer a big question: Could Mars have supported ancient life? Scientists have found the answer to be yes and are working to learn more about the planet’s past habitable atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/JHU-APL. Download video J >

Since then, Curiosity has covered about 18 miles (29 kilometers) and climbed 2,050 feet (625 meters) as it explores Gale Crater and the foothills of Mount Sharp within it. The rover has analyzed 41 rock and soil samples, relying on a suite of science instruments to learn what they reveal about Earth’s rocky sibling. And it inspired a team of engineers to develop ways to reduce wear and tear and keep the rover operating: in fact, Curiosity’s mission was recently Extended for another three yearsallowing it to continue in NASA’s fleet of important astronomical missions.

Kick with NASA and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the agency's Curiosity Mars rover on the Red Planet with a two-sided poster listing some of the intrepid explorer's inspiring achievements.

Curiosity 10th anniversary poster: Kick with NASA and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the agency’s Curiosity Mars rover on the Red Planet with a two-sided poster listing some of the intrepid explorer’s inspiring achievements. credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download Poster ›

a reward for science

It’s been a busy decade. Curiosity studies the skies of the Red Planet, capturing images of shining clouds And running moon, Rover’s radiation sensor lets scientists measure the amount of high-energy radiation Astronauts of the Future Will Be Uncovered on the Surface of MarsHelps NASA figure out how to keep them safe.

But most important, Curiosity has determined that liquid water as well as the chemical building blocks and nutrients needed to support life were present in Gale Crater for at least tens of millions of years. The crater once contained a lake, the size of which increased and decreased over time. Each layer above on Mount Sharp serves as a recent era record of Mars’ environment.

Now, the intrepid rover is driving through a canyon that marks the transition to a new area, which was believed to be drying up water, leaving behind salty minerals called sulfates.

“We are seeing evidence of dramatic changes in the climate of ancient Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The question now is whether the habitable conditions Curiosity has found so far persisted through these changes. Did they disappear, never return, or did they come and go over millions of years?”

Curiosity has made astonishing progress up the mountain. Back in 2015, the team captured a “postcard” image from distant butts. there’s only one blemish within that image a curiosity-shaped boulder Nicknamed “Ilha Novo Destino”—and, nearly seven years later, the rover trampled it on its way to a sulfate-bearing zone last month.

The team plans to explore the sulfate-rich area in the next few years. Within it, he has goals in mind such as the Geddes Wallis Channel, which may have formed late in Mount Sharp’s history during floods, and large cemented fractures that show the impact of groundwater on the mountain top.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover

From afar ‘Paratepuy Pass’: This view was captured by Curiosity on September 9, 2015, when NASA’s Mars rover was several miles away from its current location. Indicates the location of the circle a curiosity-shaped boulder That rover recently went past. To her left is the “Paratepuy Pass,” which Curiosity is now traveling through. credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. download image >

How to Keep the Rover on a Roll

What’s Curiosity’s secret to maintaining an active lifestyle at the age of 10? A team of hundreds of dedicated engineers, of course, working individually at JPL and away from home,

They catalog every crack in the wheels, test each line of computer code before sending it into space, and drill into endless rock samples at JPL’s Mars yard, making sure Curiosity does so safely. can do

“As soon as you land on Mars, everything you do is based on the fact that there’s no one to repair it for 100 million miles,” said Andy Mishkin, Curiosity’s acting project manager at JPL. “It’s about using what’s already on your rover wisely.”

For example, Curiosity’s robotic drilling process has been rebuilt several times since its landing. At one point, the drill was offline for over a year as engineers redesigned its use To be more like a handheld drill. Recently, a set of braking mechanisms that allow the robotic arm to move or stay have stopped working. However, since the arm has been working as usual since engineers put together a set of parts, the team has learned to drill more slowly to preserve the new brakes.

to minimize damage to wheelsEngineers keep track of treacherous places like a knife edge “Gator-Back” Terrain they recently discovered, and they developed traction control algorithm to help as well.

The team has taken a similar approach to manage the rover’s gradually dwindling power. Curiosity depends on longevity nuclear powered battery Solar panels to continue rolling instead. As the plutonium pellets in the battery decay, they generate heat which the rover converts to power. Due to the gradual decay of the pellets, the rover cannot do as much work in a day as it did during its first year.

Mishkin said the team is continuing to budget how much energy the rover uses each day, and figure out what activities can be performed in parallel to optimize the energy available to the rover. “Curiosity is definitely doing more multitasking where it’s safe to do so,” Mishkin said.

Through careful planning and engineering hacks, the team sincerely hopes that the plucky rover still has years of exploration ahead of it.

More about the mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, builds Curiosity for NASA and leads the mission on behalf of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information on Curiosity, visit:
http://mars.nasa.gov/msl And https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

news media contacts

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Karen Fox / Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-358-1501
karen.c.fox@nasa.gov , alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

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