NASA’s unmanned spacecraft rover Curiosity has completed two years on Mars. The most-advanced roving laboratory on Mars landed in the Gale Crater on August 5, 2012 with a mission to find out any possibility of the life on the planet in any form.
Curiosity, a multi-year mission
The mission would last for several years. According to NASA, Curiosity has been successful in determining whether Mars has environmental condition that suits the microbial life. An area named as Yellowknife Bay, filled with sedimentary rocks provided signs of a lake bed environment billion of years ago, which included fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and chemical source of energy for microbes on Mars.
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Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena stated, “Before landing, we expected that we would need to drive much farther before answering that habitability question.”
Grotzinger said that the mission was able to derive maximum benefit of landing very close to an ancient stream-bed and lake. He also said that greater efforts are to be made to get a deeper insight into the environmental condition on Mars, and now it’s clear where such information can be found. Spots, where NASA will take forward its quest, are around 3 kilometres southwest of the rover’s current location.
Journey so far
Rover Curiosity was taken to an area of dangerous sharp rocks called “Zabriskie Plateau” by the rover team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. However, after the aluminium wheels of Curiosity withered, the direction of travel was changed along with the plan to target rocky terrain where possible. The 200 metres area covering the Zabriskie Plateau was the largest area without a proper detour on the redesigned route towards the long-term science destination.
Recently, Curiosity went through another such incident, where a computer started showing surprising behaviour deployed as a backup in the system. Due to some issues with the A-side computer, the team of Curiosity has started working on the B-side computer, duplicate main computer. In 2016, InSight, a Mars Lander mission will be launched to dig deeper into the planet.