Feeds

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

Nuke-powered space tank promises to keep on truckin'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.