NASA trou­bleshoot­ing drill cri­sis on Mars Cu­rios­ity rover

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

En­gi­neers are trou­bleshoot­ing a snag on NASA’s Cu­rios­ity that’s pre­vent­ing the rover from mov­ing its ro­botic arm and driv­ing to an­other spot on Mars, the space agency said Tues­day. The prob­lem in­volves a mo­tor in the rover’s drill that is used to bore into rocks. Cu­rios­ity has been tak­ing pic­tures and track­ing the weather, but do­ing lit­tle else for the past two weeks. “We’re keeping busy with us­ing the other in­stru­ments on the rover while they do these tests,” said Ash­win Vasavada, project sci­en­tist at the NASA Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory, which man­ages the mis­sion.

The team gave a health up­date on Cu­rios­ity while dis­cussing re­search find­ings at the Amer­i­can Geo­phys­i­cal Union meet­ing in San Francisco. Since land­ing in Mar’s Gale Crater in 2012, Cu­rios­ity has un­cov­ered ge­o­logic ev­i­dence of an an­cient en­vi­ron­ment that could have sup­ported prim­i­tive life early in the red planet’s his­tory. It clocked nine miles (15 kilo­me­ters) since land­ing, ar­riv­ing two years ago at its main tar­get - a Mar­tian moun­tain dubbed Mount Sharp - where it plans to climb to higher and younger rock for­ma­tions. Be­fore the snag, the six-wheel rover found more ev­i­dence of a wa­tery his­tory on the slopes of Mount Sharp in­clud­ing the pres­ence of cer­tain chem­i­cals that sug­gests a warmer and wet­ter past un­like the cur­rent frigid, harsh en­vi­ron­ment.

As NASA di­ag­nosed Cu­rios­ity, the long-lived Op­por­tu­nity rover has been sur­vey­ing the rim of a huge crater near the Mar­tian equa­tor. Op­por­tu­nity landed on Mars in 2004 and has out­lasted its twin, Spirit, which lost con­tact af­ter seven years of ex­plo­ration. Mars was sup­posed to get an­other visi­tor this year, but a Euro­pean Space Agency space­craft crashed while try­ing to land in October. The mis­sion was not all lost: A com­pan­ion space­craft suc­cess­fully slipped into or­bit around Mars, join­ing five oth­ers cur­rently cir­cling over­head.—AP

NEW YORK: This im­age taken by NASA’s Cu­rios­ity rover shows rocky ground on the lower flank of Mount Sharp, a moun­tain on Mars. —AP

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