NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover will be the envy of all road travelers. It will meander through the Gale Crater on Mars for a new adventure in the much-anticipated “sulfur-containing unit”. The space agency announced Curiosity’s “summer road trip” in Mount Sharp on Monday.
“By the end of the journey, the rover will be able to climb the next section of the three-mile-high Martian mountain (5 kilometers) it has been exploring since 2014, looking for conditions that could support the life of ancient microbes,” NASA said. “The sulfate-containing unit is the next major area of interest, and now Curiosity has completed its exploration of the clay unit.
These areas highlight the history of the water in the Gale crater. “Sulfates, such as gypsums and Epsines, usually form around water when it evaporates, and are another clue to how the climate and life prospects changed nearly 3 billion years ago,” NASA said. “
If all goes well, the rover will reach the sulphate zone later this year, but will have to bypass a wide sand before it can arrive. NASA is well aware of the dangers of sand on Mars because its Spirit probe was trapped in a sand trap in 2009.
Curiosity will have to navigate rough terrain on a journey of about a mile. The rover team planned the basic path, but Curiosity’s automated system will look for and deal with potential terrain obstacles while driving.
Curiosity is NASA’s only rover on Mars so far, but the agency hopes to land its new “Swill” probe in February, and assuming it launches on time in July or August, there will be more road trips to Mars to look forward to.