US space agency NASA says the Curiosity rover has reached its next Mars exploration target.
The explorer, or rover, arrived at an area NASA scientists call Mount Sharp. The area is located within the Gale of the planet Craterwhich Curiosity has been exploring since landing on Mars in 2012. Mount Sharp contains a mixture of rocky material and several large hills.
In the past, researchers have found evidence that, billions of years ago, Mount Sharp contained several water systems. At some point, scientists believe the Martian climate became more extreme and caused the water systems to dry up.
NASA says fossils still around Mount Sharp may provide additional clues to severe climate change.
Today, Mars is an extremely cold desert that cannot support any running water system. Experiments performed on the fossils could help researchers learn more about the kinds of life that might have existed on Mars when it had conditions more similar to Earth.
NASA currently operates two rovers on Mars. The other vehicle, Perseverance, landed in February 2021. It is exploring areas around the planet’s Jezero Crater. The space agency estimated the landing site for Perseverance to be about 3,700 kilometers away from where Curiosity landed. NASA also operates the InSight lander on Mars.
NASA said in a statement that the minerals around Mount Sharp were first discovered by the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter years before Curiosity landed. Scientists have waited a long time to take a closer look.
Shortly after arriving in the area, Curiosity’s instruments discovered a wide range of different rock types and sizes. Among the finds were several different salt materials that suggest earlier signs of water in the area, NASA says.
To examine the rocks, Curiosity uses a drill at the end of its robotic arm to dig into the surface of Mars. The rover has already drilled several holes in Mars. The last drilling took place on October 3rd.
The Curiosity team chose a rock they named “Canaima” for the operation. The rover has recently experienced problems with a braking system that allows the robotic arm to remain mostly in place. NASA said this could cause difficulties during drilling. But he reported that Curiosity’s 36th hole was successful.
The team of scientists is now looking forward to examining the last collection of Martian dust.
The space agency noted that Curiosity’s path to Mount Sharp included areas containing “treacherous,” or hazardous areas. In August, the rover safely passed through a sandy area nestled between high hills. Sand poses a significant risk to Curiosity because of the potential for it to get stuck.
Sharp rocks can also damage the rover’s wheels. Ground rover drivers “have to be careful govern those areas,” NASA said. The agency noted that it took Curiosity more than a month to reach its target area.
After reaching their goal, however, the team was treated to some of the best images ever taken by the rover. Curiosity’s so-called Mastcam was able to capture extremely wide or panoramic views of the Martian environment.
“We would get new images every morning and we were just in aweElena Amador-French said. He oversees the work of Curiosity’s science and engineering teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “The sand ridges they were great,” he added. “You see perfect little rover tracks on them. And rocky shores it was beautiful – we got really close to the walls.”
Last month, NASA celebrated Curiosity’s 10th anniversary in service. During that time, he said the rover has driven nearly 29 kilometers and climbed about 625 meters while exploring Gale Crater.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA.
Words in this story
crater – n. a large hole in the ground created by the force of an object
drill – v. to make a hole in a hard substance using a special tool called a drill
brake – n. a part of a machine that stops or slows the movement of something
treacherous – adj. too dangerous
govern – v. to find the right direction to travel using maps and other equipment
awe – n. feeling great respect for someone or something
ridge – n. a long, narrow piece of high land
Cliff – n. an area of high, steep cliffs
What do you think of this story? We want to hear from you. We have a new comment system. Here’s how it works:
- Write your comment in the box.
- Below the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. It’s for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
- Click on an image and a box appears. Enter the login information for your social media account. Or you can create one in the Disqus system. It’s the blue circle with the “D” on it. It’s free.
Every time you return to comment on the Learning English website, you can use your account and see your comments and your responses to them. Our feedback policy is here.
#summer #journey #NASA #explorer #reaches #mineralrich #region #Mars