NASA's Mars Rover "Curiosity ran around the Red Planet for three very productive and fertile years.
The spacecraft landed on Mars on August 5, 2012, capturing its dramatic and unprecedented landing by means of a rocket engine, which provided it with a soft landing on the surface of the planet.
After the six-wheel robot determined that in its nearest location, within 154 km there is a crater in which the life of microbes could be maintained. This work is presented in the NASA Red Planet Video Chronicle.
Curiosity quickly achieved its task. Notes about the terrain near the landing site, called Yellowknife Bay, allowed scientists to conclude that Gale crater supported the potentially habitable lake-river system for a long time far past - perhaps millions of years ago.
The spacecraft left Yellowknife Bay in July 2013, creating paths towards the foothills of Mount Sharp high elevation, rising to 5, 5 km from the center of Gale.
The Mount Sharp base was the main destination of Curiosity until November 2011, when a mission of 2.5 billion dollars was already launched. The team, tracking the action of the machine, wanted Curiosity, rising from the bottom of the crater, to track all environmental changes along its path.
The rover reached the summit in September 2014. Scientists gave it the name Pahrump Hills. The spacecraft studied its terrain for 5 months, drilled relief, collecting its samples for analysis. "A lot of time was spent. We had the only chance, and we took advantage of them, getting samples of the relief. Now we can learn what it consists of," said Ashwin Wasavada, a NASA scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It was a great five months."
Curiosity left Pahrump Hillls in March to explore the area behind the mountain. Recently, the unit studied the "contact zone".
"It was an adventure, partly because we are now on a mountain, and the ascent was rather difficult," said Vasavada.
For example, coarse and slippery sand tore off the first attempt to climb to the "contact zone". But a team of scientists has developed a new, simpler route, and the spacecraft was supposed to go there.
The work done by the Mount Sharp rover still suggests that there is a liquid substance in the lower layers of the mountain, as Vasavada said. These results broaden the range of discoveries made at Yellowknife Bay. They provide a more complete view of the region.
"In our opinion, Gale crater, as an ancient habitat of living organisms, has grown significantly both in space and in time of the entire history of Mars," Ashvin said. "We hope that the rest of the mission will go as well as the previous one."
Curiosity is currently located at a height of 66 to 98 feet (or 20 to 30 meters) above the surface of the crater. Ideally, the team wants the unit to reach a height of 1,650 feet (or 500 meters) to explore the various mountain layers from above. Such a significant rise will take a lot of time. How much exactly while nobody knows. Curiosity was about half way to its first biennial expansion, which, according to NASA, was due to end in 2014. The developers of the rover will continue to apply the modification every few years. Vasavada said that he thinks they are engaged in a very interesting study, which will be enough for another 4 years while the spacecraft is in good condition and is able to continue its work.
The Curiosity team has made great strides in troubleshooting the drilling mechanism, so concerns about dismantling the damaged six wheels of the rover have died down recently. Developers think they know how to avoid bad type of localities that cause the most damage to the device and make some changes in the software that controls the wheels.
"The combination of all these things gives us confidence that the wheels will be in good condition until we finish the mission we planned to climb higher on the mountain," said Vasawada.