Feeds

One amazing reason why NASA boffins are celebrating Curiosity's 687th day on Mars

Nuke-powered space tank promises to keep on truckin'

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

As Curiosity trundles across the plains of Mars, its controllers at NASA are preparing to hold a bit of a party – as on June 24 the rover celebrates its first full Martian year (687 Earth days) on the Red Planet.

Curiosity looking good on first Martian birthday

Curiosity is looking good on its first Martian birthday

The rover landed on August 6, 2012 in Earth reckoning, and in the last Martian year has succeeded in its primary mission of finding out if Mars could have supported basic life as we know it. In March of last year, NASA reported that it had achieved just that, after drilling samples at a rock formation named Yellowknife Bay showed Mars had warm, flowing water and all the ingredients needed to sustain life.

Since then the rover has taken rock samples from two other sites that have backed up the original conclusion, and it's now trundling its way across the surface seeking more evidence. Its goal is to reach the side of Mount Sharp, which should allow NASA scientists to see how the Martian environment evolved by examining rock strata that's similar to the last drilling site of Windjana.

"It's too early for conclusions, but we expect the results to help us connect what we learned at Yellowknife Bay to what we'll learn at Mount Sharp," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity project scientist at the California Institute of Technology. "Windjana is still within an area where a river flowed. We see signs of a complex history of interaction between water and rock."

The one-Martian-year anniversary also marks the expected lifespan of the Curiosity mission. The rover was designed to last at least this long to be regarded as a successful mission, but NASA engineers typically design parts to last for two to three times their expected lifespan.

So far the rover is in excellent health. Its nuclear core is functioning well, its software has been upgraded multiple times, and its instruments show little sign of providing problems. When Curiosity landed, NASA officials said it was conceivable that the rover could last up to an Earth decade before conking out – and it looks good so far.

It hasn't all been fun and games, however – Curiosity's wheels are having a tough time of it with the rocky terrain. NASA is currently running the six-wheeled rover much more carefully after a number of tears and rips appeared in the metal wheel plates.

Curiosity route map

Curiosity's long and winding road

The NASA team controlling the rover is now picking their way carefully towards a gap in the sand dunes surrounding Mount Sharp. The entry point is 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) away from the rover's current location, and the agency is using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to scout out the safest route.

"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." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.