The Mars Rover Curiosity has reached Mount Sharp

The route of the Mars Curiosity rover up Mount Sharp. In white the original route, in yellow the new revised one (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)
The route of the Mars Curiosity rover up Mount Sharp. In white the original route, in yellow the new revised one (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Just over two years after landing on Mars, the Mars Rover Curiosity has reached Mount Sharp, a mountain in the center of Gale Crater where the Rover landed. This is the first target to be achieved in the Curiosity mission but it took a long time to get there because of the limited speed of the rover and the many stops made ​​to carry out scientific research. The management of the mission has recently drawn criticism from NASA’s Planetary Senior Review.

The route taken by the Mars Rover Curiosity was modified during the past two years for various reasons. The observations made from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) supply to NASA scientists information on the ground but the decisions are changed depending on what happens on the field.

The Mars Rover Curiosity’s wheels showed signs of wear greater than anticipated by NASA engineers from the earliest stages of the journey. For this reason, when possible, the Rover has followed a path that avoids rocky terrain that are too hard.

Geological surveys are an important part of the Mars Rover Curiosity mission so the results of the soil drilling influence the decisions taken at NASA mission control. The sites that showed to be the most interesting from the scientific point of view received more attention with more thorough analyzes in the area.

The management of the mission Curiosity caused a reproach from NASA’s Planetary Senior Review. It’s carried out every two years to recommend how to distribute the budget among the various agency’s missions. The latest one was recently completed and contains criticism for the fact that Curiosity made a few analyzis exploiting too little its many instruments to continue his journey to Mount Sharp.

In fact, the Mars Rover Curiosity reached its first destination later than planned because it stopped to carry out scientific research. Anyway, now for the mission a new chapter is opened where Curiosity will start traveling up Mount Sharp. Its route was changed from the one planned in the past to try to limit the wear of its wheels and also thanks to the examinations made ​​by the Rover over the last year.

In this new phase of its mission, NASA scientists may respond to criticism with a greater amount of drilling and geological analyzes. In fact, they believe that Mount Sharp offers many clues about the history of Mars and the possibility that at least in the past it hosted life forms.

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