After a treacherous journey, NASA’s Curiosity Mars probe has reached an area believed to have formed billions of years ago when the waters of the Red Planet vanished.
This area of Mount Sharp Curiosity roamingThe land of Mars, rich in salty minerals that scientists believe were left behind when streams and ponds dried up. As such, this area could hold tantalizing clues about how it works Martian The climate has changed from being similar to Earth’s to the frozen arid desert that Curiosity is exploring today.
NASA has spotted salty minerals that enrich this area of Mount Sharp Mars reconnaissance vehicle Years before Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012.
When Curiosity finally got a closer look at the topography of Mount Sharp, the rover discovered a variety of rock types and past water marks, including nodules with the texture of popcorn, salty minerals such as magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate (including gypsum), and sodium chloride, which is table salt. ordinary.
After calculating pressures on the rotary drill at the end of the probe’s 7-foot-long (2 m) arm that is used to crush rock samples for analysis, the Curiosity team selected a rock dubbed “Canaima” to drill and assemble Flight 36 for the mission. drilling sample.
“As we did before each training, we got down the dust and then lowered the upper deck of the Kanaima using the auger,” said Katia Zamora Garcia, Curiosity’s project manager. statement. “The lack of scratch marks or indentations was an indication that it might be difficult to dig.”
The team then stopped by to see if that posed a risk to Curiosity’s arm. Zamora Garcia explained that with a new drilling algorithm created to reduce the use of percussion, a hammer movement that drills use to penetrate hard surfaces, they decided to go ahead, no percussion was needed.
The team will now analyze portions of the sample collected from Canaima using Curiosity’s Chemical and Mineralogy instrument and analyze the sample in Mars’ instrument.
Curiosity summer road trip
To reach the sulfate-rich region, the Curiosity rover spent August trekking through a narrow stretch of sand surrounded by the name Paraitepuy Pass. It took more than a month for Curiosity to navigate safely through this treacherous terrain, which glistens among the high hills. Although Paraitepuy Pass is mostly free of sharp rocks that can damage rover wheels, sand can be dangerous to Curiosity; If its wheels lose traction, the rover could stall.
Rover drivers also had another challenge to consider: The Martian sky was barred from the surrounding hills, meaning Curiosity had to be positioned carefully so that its antennas point toward Earth and can still be in contact with it. Mars orbitals.
As the team carefully navigated this trail, they were rewarded with some stunning photos from Curiosity’s Mastcam, particularly a panorama of the area taken on August 14.
“We’re going to get new images every morning and feel awe,” said Elena Amador French, Curiosity’s science operations coordinator, who manages the collaboration between science and engineering teams, in the statement. “The sand hills were great. You can see perfect little ATV tracks on them. And the slopes were beautiful – we really got close to the walls.”
Despite the Paraitepuy Pass being cleared, Curiosity has a tough road ahead. This salty area comes with its own challenges – in particular, the rover’s operating team will have to calculate rocky terrain that makes it difficult to place all six of Curiosity’s wheels on stable ground.
If Curiosity isn’t stable, operators won’t risk opening the drill boom if it hits the coarse rock.
“The more important the scientific findings are, the more obstacles Mars will have before us,” Amador French said.
Curiosity will continue to explore this region, proving that after 10 years on Mars, the rover still has plenty of Earth to cover.
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