NASA’s Curiosity Rover will investigate the first Martian mountain, the administration informed on early Tuesday morning. The rerouting process was determined by Rover’s inability to cross and investigate a slippery Martian area, scientists explain.
The Curiosity Rover developed by scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration continues its Martian missions with many more investigations on the Red Planet. According to the recent information disclosed by experts operating the small space vehicle, the rover is now heading towards Mount Sharp, the first Martian mountain to be investigated by NASA.
Experts behind Curiosity Rover were forced to change the vehicle’s route as the terrain they have been previously analyzing was too slippery and abrupt for the Rover. The gadget was supposed to take a look at the Southern terrain on Mars, but as it drew further, the soil became extremely unconsolidated.
Experts knew the south side of Mars might cause problems to the rover, but they decided to test it anyways. The vehicle has had problems in the past, as well, related to its capacity of crossing over sand ripples.
Previous analyses suggested them there could also be rare patches of firm terrain that the rover could easily drive through. Unfortunately, the area that appeared to have been consolidated, was incredibly sandy and Curiosity was not capable of going past them.
Scientists oriented the rover towards the west, where they know the terrain is safe for the vehicle. Thus, rover is now preparing to register data about one of Mars’ main mountains, Sharp.
The unexpected rerouting process took experts by surprise as they were forced to spend a couple of days determining the best itinerary that the rover could follow in the future. Calculations are all the more difficult as scientists have to estimate whether the new site that Curiosity is going to investigate is really worth the trouble or not. “One factor […] is how much time [we] spend reaching a particular target, when there are many others ahead,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Manager of Curiosity’s Projects.
The team used images and data recorded by the rover and by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as they wanted to make sure the new route is, indeed, safe for their device. They have, then compared the new route with the possibility of accomplishing short-term and long-term objectives. The conclusion was that Mountain Sharp could offer many insights on Mars’ solid terrain; therefore the rover is now heading towards it.
Curiosity has been on Mars since 2012 contributing to NASA’s database about the Red Planet. The rover has already analyzed the base of the mountain last year when it investigated outcrops on the landing side of Mountain Sharp. The higher layers of the mountain represent experts’ focus of attention for their future mission on Mars.
Image Source: Apex Tribune