Curiosity Mars Rover Gator Back Rocks

To take care of away from patches of knife-edged rocks, the mission has taken an replace route up Mount Fascinating.

” recordsdata-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA’s Curiosity ” recordsdata-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Mars rover spent most of March rock climbing the “Greenheugh Pediment” – a steady slope capped by rubbly sandstone. The rover temporarily summited this characteristic’s north face two years ago; now on the pediment’s southern aspect, Curiosity has navigated attend onto the pediment to stumble on it extra fully.

Nonetheless on March 18, the mission crew saw an unexpected terrain swap forward and realized they would must flip around: The path sooner than Curiosity was once carpeted with extra wind-sharpened rocks, or ventifacts, than they bask in ever viewed in the rover’s nearly 10 years on the Pink Planet.

Curiosity Rover Panorama “Gator Back” Rocks

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover broken-down its Mast Digicam, or Mastcam, to receive this 360-level panorama on March 23, 2022, the three,423th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The crew has informally described the wind-sharpened rocks viewed here as “gator-attend” rocks attributable to of their scaly look. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Ventifacts chewed up Curiosity’s wheels earlier in the mission. Since then, rover engineers bask in learned ways to sluggish wheel wear, including a traction alter algorithm, to decrease how many times they desire to assess the wheels. And they furthermore belief rover routes that take care of away from riding over such rocks, including these newest ventifacts, that are manufactured from sandstone – the hardest invent of rock Curiosity has encountered on Mars.

The crew nicknamed their scalelike look “gator-attend” terrain. Even though the mission had scouted the field the utilization of orbital imagery, it took seeing these rocks shut-up to illustrate the ventifacts.

“It was once evident from Curiosity’s photos that this would possibly perchance not be perfect for our wheels,” stated Curiosity Project Manager Megan Lin of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the mission. “It would possibly per chance well well be sluggish going, and we wouldn’t bask in been ready to enforce rover-riding most titillating practices.”

Wind Sharpened Rocks Called Ventifacts

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover broken-down its Mast Digicam, or Mastcam, to survey these wind-sharpened rocks, known as ventifacts, on March 15, 2022, the three,415th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The crew has informally described these patches of ventifacts as “gator-attend” rocks attributable to of their scaly look. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The gator-attend rocks aren’t impassable – they perfect wouldn’t bask in been price crossing, brooding about how complicated the path would be and the way in which mighty they would age the rover’s wheels.

So the mission is mapping out a brand recent course for the rover as it continues to stumble on Mount Fascinating, a 3.4-mile-huge (5.5-kilometer-huge) mountain that Curiosity has been ascending since 2014. Because it climbs, Curiosity is ready to respect assorted sedimentary layers that had been fashioned by water billions of years ago. These layers abet scientists perceive whether or not miniature lifestyles would possibly bask in survived in the previous Martian ambiance.

Why Greenheugh?

The Greenheugh Pediment is a big, sloping undeniable shut to the sinful of Mount Fascinating that extends about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) for the duration of. Curiosity’s scientists first seen it in orbital imagery sooner than the rover’s touchdown in 2012. The pediment sticks out as a standalone characteristic on this allotment of Mount Fascinating, and scientists a truly critical to grab the way in which it fashioned.

NASA Curiosity Mars Rover

Low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

It furthermore sits nearby the Gediz Vallis Ridge, that would bask in been created as particles flowed down the mountain. Curiosity will at all times dwell in the decrease foothills of Mount Fascinating, the attach there’s proof of former water and environments that would bask in been habitable in the previous. Using for the duration of a few mile (1.5 kilometers) of the pediment to receive images of Gediz Vallis Ridge would bask in been a mode to respect subject cloth from the mountain’s uppermost reaches.

“From a distance, we can be aware automobile-sized boulders that had been transported down from better phases of Mount Fascinating – perchance by water barely unimaginative in Mars’ moist era,” stated Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s challenge scientist at JPL. “We don’t in actuality know what they’re, so we a truly critical to look at them up shut.”

The Side freeway Less Traveled

Over the next couple weeks, Curiosity will climb down from the pediment to a attach it had beforehand been exploring: a transition zone between a clay-well off field and one with better portions of salt minerals known as sulfates. The clay minerals fashioned when the mountain was once wetter, dappled with streams and ponds; the salts would possibly bask in fashioned as Mars’ local climate dried out over time.

“It was once in actuality wintry to look at rocks that preserved a time when lakes had been drying up and being changed by streams and dry sand dunes,” stated Abigail Fraeman, Curiosity’s deputy challenge scientist at JPL. “I’m in actuality unfamiliar to look at what we discover as we continue to climb on this alternate route.”

Curiosity’s wheels can be on safer floor as it leaves the gator-attend terrain on the attend of, however engineers are centered on other signs of damage on the rover’s robotic arm, which carries its rock drill. Braking mechanisms on two of the arm’s joints bask in stopped working in the previous year. On the opposite hand, every joint has redundant parts to be obvious the arm can abet drilling rock samples. The crew is finding out the most titillating ways to exercise the arm to be obvious these redundant parts abet working as prolonged as imaginable.

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