Curiosity heads south

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After four years of southwest travel to skirt a large dune field at the base of Mount Sharp, Curiosity has finally turned due south to aim directly up the mountain.

“Now that we’ve skirted our way around the dunes and crossed the plateau, we’ve turned south to climb the mountain head-on,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Since landing, we’ve been aiming for this gap in the terrain and this left turn. It’s a great moment for the mission.”

One comment

  • LocalFluff

    I wonder if it will ever reach that valley/canyon. The ancient layered rocks there was the motivation for picking its landing site, but since the landing they don’t seem important at all. The Mars 2020 rover (which I hope will not become the Mars 2020s rover with launch 2029) is equiped to collect small drill core samples. But imagine how many years it will take for it, with its Curiosity architecture, to collect them. A mission to land and collect them could be done no earlier than a decade later. I think the sample collection equipment is an overambitious fantasy that should be replaced with a useful science intrument instead. The Oxie-thing to extract oxygen from the atmosphere is also just a waste of valuable and rare payload mass. I am afraid the Mars 2020 rover is set to be even less productive than MSL sloth.

    Rovers on Mars need big solar panels, maybe held up by a mast and wires like sails on a ship but to turn toward the Sun instead of to the wind, and be commanded from Earth every 10 to 40 minutes instead of once every 25 hours.

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