Curiosity rover celebrates Martian anniversary

24 June 2014
By Edd Gent
Mobile version
Share |
Wheel damage to the Curiosity rover in late in 2013 has slowed it down, but should not affect its mission life

Wheel damage to the Curiosity rover in late in 2013 has slowed it down, but should not affect its mission life

Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover has completed a Martian year – 687 Earth days – on the red planet having accomplished its main goal.

The rover successfully landed on in the Gale Crater on August 6, 2012, with the mission of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favourable for microbial life.

The answer was a historic ‘yes’ after two mudstone slabs found at an area known as Yellowknife Bay that the rover sampled with its drill revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth.

Despite this early success the rover has not been entirely lucky after wheel damage late in 2013 prompted a slow-down in driving as the mission team adjusted routes and driving methods to reduce the rate of damage.

But the team is ahead of schedule, as they had expected the rover would have to reach the lower slope of an area called Mount Sharp before meeting the central goal of the mission, and while they will need to continually adapt to the threats the terrain poses to the rover's wheels it is not expected to be a determining factor in the length of Curiosity's operational life.

"We are getting in some long drives using what we have learned," said Jim Erickson, Curiosity project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "When you're exploring another planet, you expect surprises.  The sharp, embedded rocks were a bad surprise. Yellowknife Bay was a good surprise."

Curiosity paused in driving this spring to drill and collect a sample from a sandstone site called Windjana and the rover currently is carrying some of the rock-powder sample collected at the site for follow-up analysis.

It departed Windjana in mid-May and is advancing westward towards Mount Sharp, having covered about nine-tenths of a mile (1.5km) in 23 driving days and brought the mission's odometer tally up to 4.9 miles.

The findings so far have raised the bar for the work ahead and at Mount Sharp, the mission team will seek evidence not only of habitability, but also of how environments evolved and what conditions favoured preservation of clues to whether life existed there.

The entry gate to the mountain is a gap in a band of dunes edging the mountain's northern flank that is approximately 2.4 miles ahead of the rover's current location and the new path will take Curiosity across sandy patches as well as rockier ground.

Terrain mapping with use of imaging from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will enable the team to chart safer, though longer, routes.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    MBDA
    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Bridge Test Facility Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Shropshire, Telford, England
    • Negotiable

    Bridge Test Facility ManagerWe currently have a vacancy for a Bridge Test Facility Manager at our site in Telford with our Land UK business.As the Bridge Test Facility Manager, you will be part of our Test & Trials team, working closely with the Mili

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T