Mars Curiosity Rover Rolls Past One Kilometer Mark
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Following its latest drive, the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity surpassed the one kilometer milestone in distance traveled since it landed on the Red Planet, officials from the US space agency have announced.
The latest journey covered approximately 38 meters or 125 feet, bringing the total distance traveled by the rover to 1.029 kilometers or 3,376 feet, NASA said. The drive was completed during the early afternoon hours on Wednesday, Curiosity’s 335th day of work on the planet’s surface.
“When I saw that the drive had gone well and passed the kilometer mark, I was really pleased and proud. Hopefully, this is just the first of many kilometers to come,” said Frank Hartman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, who drives the rover.
Yesterday, Curiosity surpassed the halfway point of its year-long prime mission, and two weeks ago it completed its investigation of science targets in the Glenelg region, the agency said. That location is approximately 500 yards east of where it landed on August 5 of last year, and the rover’s next destination is the lower layers of Mount Sharp, located approximately five miles (eight kilometers) southwest of Glenelg.
“Mount Sharp, in the middle of Gale Crater, exposes many layers where scientists anticipate finding evidence about how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved,” NASA said. “At targets in the Glenelg area, the rover already accomplished the mission’s main science objective by finding evidence for an ancient wet environment that had conditions favorable for microbial life.”
Curiosity, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in November 2011, is approximately 10 feet (three meters) long, making it nearly twice as long as previous Mars rovers. It features six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system, and cameras mounted on a mast in order to help the mission team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes.
The newer rover also comes equipped with tools to help gather rock and soil sample, process them, and distribute them to onboard test chambers. Furthermore, Curiosity has been engineered to travel over obstacles up to 25 inches (65 centimeters) high and travel up to 660 feet (200 meters) per day on the rocky Martian terrain. It is powered by a radioisotope power generator that was contributed to the project by the US Department of Energy.