Curiosity milestone: NASA’s Mars rover drives 4,000 days on Red Planet

Curiosity milestone: NASA’s Mars rover drives 4,000 days on Red Planet
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NASA's Curiosity rover has passed a significant milestone: 4,000 Martian days since landing on the Red Planet in 2012.

The rover made substantial progress in understanding Mars' past and present environments, As well as whether it might have ever supported microbial life, according to a NASA statement on Monday, celebrating the rover's success.

The rover, which is still going strong after 11 years, recently gathered its 39th sample.

“The types of sulfate and carbonate minerals that Curiosity’s instruments have identified in the last year help us understand what Mars was like so long ago," said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist.


"We’ve been anticipating these results for decades, and now Sequoia will tell us even more,” added the mission lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The sample, Taken from a target known as "Sequoia," will likely tell more about how Mars' climate and habitability changed as this region grew rich in sulfates.

Curiosity challenges

Curiosity is currently climbing Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain in Gale Crater.

Mount Sharp's strata, which originated at various points in Martian history, provide evidence of the planet's changing temperature.

Considering the difficult Martian environment, Curiosity is still in good shape. However, the rover's left Mastcam camera's filter wheel is jammed.

Making the camera's ability to observe the makeup of rocks from a distance limited to photographing them with just a single filter.

"If unable to nudge it back all the way, The mission would rely on the higher resolution 100 mm focal length right Mastcam as the primary color-imaging system. As a result, how the team scouts for science targets and rover routes would be affected," said a NASA blog.

"The right camera needs to take nine times more images than the left to cover the same area. The teams also would have a degraded ability to observe the detailed color spectra of rocks from afar."

While the mission team is striving to find a solution, it's probable that in the future they'll have to use the correct Mastcam camera as their main color imaging system.

This would have an impact on how the crew hunts for science targets and rover routes, As the right camera would need to take nine times as many images as the left to cover the same area.

Mission: Climbing Mars' Mount Sharp

For many more years to come, Mount Sharp will likely be explored by curiosity.

The solar conjunction occurrence, in which Mars vanishes behind the Sun and communication with the rover is impossible, is causing the mission team to plan a multi-week break in November.

Curiosity will, however continue to explore Mount Sharp after solar conjunction to uncover more information about the past and present environments of Mars, noted the Monday press release.

Located in Pasadena, California, and overseen by Caltech, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed Curiosity. NASA's Science Expedition Directorate in Washington is represented by JPL in leading the expedition.

Meanwhile, built and run in San Diego, Mastcam is a product of Malin Space Science Systems.

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