The NASA Mars rover Curiosity was slated to drill into a rock known as “Bonanza King.” But, that drilling was scrapped. The rock was deemed too unstable according to NASA officials. So, Curiosity has packed up its drill and is continuing its trek towards Mount Sharp.
Mount Sharp is Curiosity’s main goal. Mission planners want the rover to travel up the mountain’s foothills and document the changing landscape as it does. These changes in rocks should provide NASA with a better understanding of the planet’s tumultuous history.
The road to Mount Sharp has been long and hard for Curiosity. Mars’ terrain hasn’t been kind to its wheels. Earlier this month, the rover had to look for an alternate route after encountering a particular sandy spot in an area known as Hidden Valley. NASA officials confirmed the area’s sand is not conducive for traveling.
“After further analysis of the sand, Hidden Valley does not appear to be navigable with the desired degree of confidence,” Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson said in a statement. “We will use a route avoiding the worst of the sharp rocks as we drive slightly to the north of Hidden Valley.”
Curiosity has clocked in about 5.5 miles since landing in the Gale Crater in August 2012. The rover still has about 2 miles to go before it reaches the slopes of Mount Sharp.
New Type of Rover
In other NASA news, NASA showed off a new type of robot earlier this month. Nicknamed ‘swarmies’ these robots are smaller, less intelligent rovers.
“For a while, people were interested in putting as much smarts and capacity as they could on their one robot,” says Kurt Leucht, one of the engineers working on the project.
“Now people are realizing you can have much smaller, much simpler robots that can work together and achieve a task.”
Plus, having a ‘swarm’ of rovers gives you insurance. It’s not a big deal if one breaks. You can read more about the ‘swarmies’ here.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech