Despite signs of wear and tear, the intrepid spacecraft is about to begin an exciting new chapter in its mission to climb the mountains of Mars.


Ten years ago today, a jetpack dropped NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars, and an SUV-sized rover billions of years ago showed that Mars had the necessary conditions to sustain microscopic life. I started looking for evidence.

N.ASA’s Curiosity rover turns 10: NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover set out to answer a big question when it landed on Mars a decade ago. Scientists have found the answer is yes and have been working to learn more about Earth’s past habitable environments. credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/JHU-APL. Download video ›

Since then, Curiosity has driven approximately 18 miles (29 kilometers) and climbed 2,050 feet (625 meters) to explore Gale Crater and the base of Mount Sharp within it. Rover analyzed 41 rock and soil samples and utilized an array of scientific instruments to see what they could reveal about Earth’s rocky brothers. A team of engineers also had to devise a way to keep the rover moving with minimal wear and tear. In fact, Curiosity’s mission was recently extended for another three years, allowing him to continue in NASA’s fleet of critical astrobiology missions.

Curiosity 10th Anniversary Poster: Take an interest in NASA and celebrate the 10th anniversary of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Mars with a double-sided poster featuring some of the brave explorer’s inspirational achievements. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download poster ›

grace of science

It’s been a busy decade. Curiosity studied the Martian sky, capturing images of glowing clouds and a drifting moon. The rover’s radiation sensors will allow scientists to measure the amount of high-energy radiation future astronauts will be exposed to on the surface of Mars, helping NASA understand how to keep astronauts safe.

But most importantly, they discovered that chemical building blocks and nutrients, as well as the liquid water necessary to sustain life, existed in Gale Crater for at least tens of millions of years. . The crater once housed a lake, whose size has increased and decreased over time. Each higher layer of Mount Sharp serves as a record of a more recent era of the Martian environment.

Now this intrepid rover is traversing a canyon that marks the transition to a new region. The canyon is thought to have formed when the water dried up and left behind a salty mineral called sulfate.

Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “The question now is whether the habitable conditions Curiosity has found so far persist through these changes. Did they disappear and never return, or did they disappear for millions of years? Did you come and go?”

Curiosity has made remarkable progress climbing the mountain. In 2015, the team captured a “postcard” image of Butte in the distance. The tiny dot in that image is a Curiosity-sized rock nicknamed “Ilha Novo Destino.” And nearly seven years after him, Rover trampled it last month en route to a sulfate-bearing area.

The team plans to explore areas rich in sulfates over the next few years. Among these are goals such as the Geddes Gorge Channel, which may have formed during a flood later in Mount Sharp’s history, and a large cemented chasm that shows the effects of groundwater above the mountain. is placed in

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover captured this 360-degree panorama at the Avana Velo drill site using a Mast Camera (Mastcam).

“Paraitepui Pass” from a distance: This scene was captured by Curiosity on September 9, 2015, when NASA’s Mars rover was miles away from its current location.The circle indicates the location of curiosity size boulder That the Rover recently passed by. On the left is the Paraitepui Pass through which Curiosity passes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download images ›

How to keep the rover spinning

What’s Curiosity’s secret to maintaining an active lifestyle at a mature age of 10? Of course, we have a team of hundreds of dedicated engineers working in person at JPL or remotely from home.

They cataloged every crack in their wheels, tested every line of computer code before sending it into space, and drilled into endless rock samples in JPL’s Mars yards so Curiosity could safely do the same. will do so.

“As soon as we land on Mars, we do everything based on the fact that no one is around to fix Mars for 100 million miles,” said Andy Mishkin, deputy project manager for JPL’s Curiosity. increase. “It’s all about making smart use of what the rover already has.”

Curiosity’s robotic drilling process, for example, has been reinvented many times since its landing. At one point the drill was offline for over a year as engineers redesigned it to be used like a handheld drill, and more recently the robot installed a series of brakes to keep his arm from moving or moving. mechanism no longer works. The arms have been running normally since the engineers used the spare set, but the team has also learned to drill more gently to maintain the new brakes.

To minimize damage to the wheels, engineers paid attention to hazards like the recently discovered knife-edge “gatorback” terrain and developed traction control algorithms that are equally helpful.

The team is taking a similar approach to managing the rover’s slowly diminishing power. Rather than solar panels, Curiosity relies on long-life nuclear batteries to keep it spinning. As the plutonium pellets in the battery degrade, heat is generated, which the rover converts into electricity. Pellets disintegrate gradually, so Rover can hardly do as much in a day as he did in his first year.

Mishkin said the team continues to budget the energy the rover uses each day and knows what activities can be done in parallel to optimize the rover’s available energy. is. “Curiosity is definitely ready for safe multitasking,” he added Mishkin.

Through careful planning and engineering hacks, the team hopes the intrepid rover will still be exploring for years to come.

Mission details

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, built Curiosity for NASA and leads missions on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information on Curiosity, please visit:

http://mars.nasa.gov/msl When https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

news media contacts

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
818-393-2433
andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

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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