Science

Curiosity rover celebrates tenth anniversary of touchdown

NASA’s Curiosity rover is celebrating its tenth anniversary on Mars at the moment, and it is nonetheless going sturdy because it landed on August 6, 2012. As the primary newly designed rover together with Perseverance, Curiosity not solely offered illuminating scientific details about the planet’s historical past and geology, but in addition demonstrated most of the engineering ideas that made rovers greater and higher than ever earlier than.

Whenever you consider a rover, many individuals consider one thing small, just like the microwave-sized Sojourner that landed on Mars in 1997, or the golf cart-sized Alternative and Spirit rovers that landed in 2004. However Curiosity laid the muse for way more. all-terrain automobiles like him and the Perseverance are in regards to the dimension of a automotive and significantly heavier than their pioneering counterparts. This enhance in dimension and mass implies that the brand new rovers can carry way more refined scientific devices, remodeling rovers from small explorers who might solely acquire fundamental information into cellular laboratories. It’s on this precept that Curiosity acquired the title of its technical mission – the Mars Science Laboratory.

A poster launched by NASA to have fun the tenth anniversary of the Curiosity rover on the Crimson Planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Nonetheless, the bigger, heavier rover faces an even bigger downside when it comes to how it may be landed on Mars. Earlier generations of rovers had been coated in airbags and primarily crashed to the floor the place they bounced earlier than coming to a cease, with the air within the airbags defending them from influence. However the important mass of the Curiosity made the airbags ineffective, so a brand new touchdown system was developed.

The skycrane system that introduced Curiosity and Perseverance safely to the Martian floor operates utilizing a jetpack that fires engines to sluggish the descent whereas the rover descends on tethers. As soon as the rover touches down, the cables are disconnected and the jetpack flies away to stop entanglement between it and the rover. This method helps place the rover in a particular and predictable location, versus the unpredictable deployment of airbags, and might safely decrease a lot heavier rovers.

Curiosity instantly captured the hearts of the general public and created gorgeous photographs of the Martian panorama, in addition to lovely photographs of clouds, along with its work in search of indicators of historical life and measuring the Martian ambiance. A few of his hottest outreach initiatives embrace big high-definition panoramas and movies exhibiting the Gale Crater he’s exploring.

Nonetheless, Mars continues to be a difficult setting and Curiosity has needed to cope with points resembling sharp rocks which have broken its wheels. To mitigate this downside, the rover’s pilot group is cautious about how they use Curiosity to make sure that there may be as little injury to the tools as potential in order that it may possibly proceed to function for so long as potential.

“When you land on Mars, every thing you do relies on the truth that there is no such thing as a one round to repair it for 100 million miles,” mentioned Andy Mishkin, Performing Venture Supervisor for Curiosity on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA. “It is all about making good use of what is already in your rover.”

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