The missions of Curiosity
The NASA’s rover continues its journey inside crater Gale. Since August of 2012, it took over 154,000 images and relentlessly analyzed rock samples for signs of microbial life. NASA’s rover, Curiosity landed on Mars August 5, 2012. Mount Sharp is one of the most important mountains in the center of Gale Crater on Mars and was photographed by the rover Curiosity on 6 June. This mountain is 5.5 km above the bed of the crater and the rover NASA has captured a new splendid panorama literally “on the fly” on the surface of the Martian dunes.
As the evening shadows lengthened on the laboratory of NASA JPL in Pasadena, California, on the evening of 24 September, the Curiosity rover on Mars with its hammer drill was preparing to drill 6.7 cm inside a rock formation to slopes of Mount Sharp. The data and images received at JPL next morning confirmed the success of the operation, through which was collected a sample of pulverized rock, now waiting to enter the belly of the laboratory for chemical analysis extensive walking.
“This drilling site is in the lower part of the base layer of the mountain, and from there we are going to examine the upper layers, younger, exposed in the nearby hills,” said the Deputy Project Scientist of Curiosity Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. “This first look at the rocks below the Mount Sharp is exciting, because we will start to build up a picture of the environment at the time of formation of the mountain and the events that led to its growth.”
After landing on Mars in August 2012, and before starting the long march towards Mount Sharp, Curiosity has spent most of the first year of the mission studying productively area much closer to the landing site, but in the direction opposite, called Yellowknife Bay. An analysis of the rocks drilled at that site, the mission has made the scenario of an ancient seabed lake which, more than three billion years ago, offered the nutrients and a gradient of chemical energy favorable for the development of microbes, if ever it existed at the time.
After making the third drilling Kimberly (KMS-9), a region full of rocky outcrops hilly, the intrepid rover goes at full speed towards the slopes of sedimentary rocks at the base of the mysterious Mount Sharp, which is the sixth destination NASA mission inside the crater. The target of the third drill was a slab of sandstone, called Windjana, at the base of a small hill, Mount Remarkable, about 4 kilometers south-west of Yellowknife Bay. What are the clues Curiosity is trying to better understand the ancient habitable environments of the Red Planet and to reconstruct changes in climatic conditions that crossed Mars. The minerals, preserved by the rocks may indicate the places that have hosted microbial Martian life, if it ever did exist. Mars was wetter, warmer and more hospitable billion years ago than today.
The robot of a 1 ton is driving on a path towards the Murray Buttes, located in the dunes on the right side of Mount Sharp. Curiosity has yet another 4 miles to go before the end of the year. During driving the rover is not “is with our hands” and continues his scientific work by studying the Martian material collected during drilling.
“We continue to analyze samples of Kimberley with CheMin and SAM,” wrote a team member John Bridges. To date, the odometer of Curiosity marks a total of 6.1 kilometers traveled since it landed inside Gale Crater in August 2012. In recent years, he has taken more than 154,000 images.