NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover will envy road users everywhere. It doesn’t have to hear “Are we there yet?” There will be no gas stations in the bathroom. It will simply meander over the Gale Crater on Mars and head for new adventures in the highly anticipated “sulfate-containing unit”
The space agency announced on Monday the “summer road trip” from Curiosity on Mount Sharp. “At the end of the journey, the rover will be able to climb to the next section of the 3-mile Marsberg (5 km high) that it has been exploring since 2014 and look for conditions that may have supported ancient microbial life.” NASA said.
The sulfate-containing unit is the next major area of interest after research into the Curiosity.
These areas underline the history of water in the Gale Crater. “Sulfates such as gypsum and epsom salt usually form around water when it evaporates, and are another indication of how the climate and life prospects changed almost 3 billion years ago,” said NASA.
If all goes well, the rover will reach the sulfate region later this year, but only after working its way around a wide patch of sand. NASA is aware of the dangers of Mars sand after its Spirit Rover got stuck in a sand trap in 2009.
Curiosity has to navigate through rough terrain on a kilometer-long road trip. The rover team is planning the basic path, but Curiosity’s automated systems will search for and respond to potential terrain obstacles when traveling.
Curiosity is currently NASA’s only rover on Mars, but the agency hopes to landin February, in July or August. Then we have even more Mars road trips to look forward to.