Feeds

NASA quandary: Should Curiosity channel Fast and Furious for Martian dune-buggy jump?

Rover prepares to brave the 'Dingo Gap' to reach Mount Sharp

Application security programs and practises

NASA scientists are preparing to put Curiosity through its toughest challenge yet, scaling a meter-high sand dune that could leave the Mars rover stranded, immobilized.

Dingo Gap

Let's go off-road!

The boffins behind Curiosity are looking for the best possible route to the rover's next goal, Mount Sharp, but the two routes open to them at the moment are rock-covered escarpments that could damage the rover's wheels, which have already taken a greater-than-expected pounding.

The rover's six aluminum wheels have already accumulated a few dents, dings and rips from the tough Martian regolith. NASA is experimenting with using four-wheel drive, rather than using all six motors, to try and make life easier on the rover, but the team also wants to move it onto smoother ground.

One solution is to take a route dubbed Dingo Gap – a wind-blown sand dune that stretches between the two escarpments. If Curiosity can make it over that dune, it faces a relatively smooth route ahead. But considering that Curiosity's older cousin Spirit is still stuck in a sand dune on the other side of the planet, it's a tough call to make.

"The decision hasn't been made yet, but it is prudent to go check," said Jim Erickson, Curiosity's project manager at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We'll take a peek over the dune into the valley immediately to the west to see whether the terrain looks as good as the analysis of orbital images implies."

Mars dune

Slow and steady does it

The rover is now sitting on the eastern side of Dingo Gap, and the NASA team is checking to see how firm the sand is under the SUV-sized rover's wheels. The rover drove a little way up the dune before retreating, and the scientists are now trying to see if it's safe to go seriously off-road.

Back here on Earth the temptation, as envisaged by endless Hollywood clichés, would be to rush the dune, shoot up one side, and jump over to the other side, all with a resounding "Yee-haw!" from Vin Diesel and a shot of nitrous oxide to the engine.

NASA's not going to bother with that, but instead intends to take things very slow and steady if it decides to go for the Dingo Gap. You don't take chances with something as precious as Curiosity, particularly when the nearest tow truck is nearly 100 million miles away. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.