NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached a salt flat

After an arduous journey, NASA's Curiosity rover has reached a salt-rich region thought to have formed billions of years ago when water disappeared from the Red Planet.

BingMag.com NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached a salt flat

After an arduous journey, NASA's Curiosity rover has reached a salt-rich region thought to have formed billions of years ago when water disappeared from the Red Planet.

This area of Mount Sharp, where the Curiosity rover is now, is rich in salty minerals that scientists think are left over from dried up streams and ponds. This area could hold clues about how the Martian climate changed from something similar to Earth to today's frozen and barren desert. Mars was detected by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). But curiosity with a closer look at the surface of Mount Sharp, a collection of all kinds of rocks and signs of ancient water, including pebbles with a porous texture and salt minerals such as magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate (including gypsum) and even sodium chloride, which forms common table salt.

By calculating the tension of the drill at the end of the rover's robotic arm, which is used to pulverize the rock samples and finally analyze them, the Curiosity team selected a rock called "Canaima" for drilling and collection. selected the 36th sample of the mission.

Curiosity project manager Kathya Zamora-Garcia said in a statement: We drilled with a drill. But the lack of scratches or serrations in the rock suggested that it might be difficult to drill through it. The team then halted operations to assess the risk of drilling for Curiosity's arm. Finally, with a new drilling algorithm to minimize the use of percussion, which involves a hammering motion of the drill bits to penetrate hard surfaces, the experts decided to proceed with the operation and no percussion was required.

The team now It will study sample fragments collected from Canaima using Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy Instrument and Sample Analysis Instrument on Mars. The sulfate-rich region was moving along a narrow, sandy path called Paraitepuy Passage in August. It took more than a month for Curiosity to safely navigate the difficult surface, which spirals between high hills.

Although Paraitpoi Pass is mostly free of sharp rocks that could damage the rover's wheels, But sand can be just as dangerous to curiosity. If the rover's wheels lose traction, it could get stuck on the surface.

BingMag.com NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached a salt flat

Photo taken on August 23 (1 Shahrivar) from the salt area
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover control team had another challenge. The Martian sky was blocked by the surrounding hills, and Curiosity had to be carefully positioned so that its antennas pointed toward Earth and could remain in contact with the Mars orbiters.

While the mission team carefully Along the way, he recorded spectacular photos of the area with the Mastcam camera, especially a panorama of the area that was taken on August 14.

"Elena Amador-French" Elena Amador-French, Curiosity's science operations coordinator between the science and engineering teams, said: "We were getting new images every morning and we were very surprised. The sand dunes were very beautiful and the small footprint of the rover could be seen on them. The rocks were spectacular and we got very close to the walls.>

But despite crossing Paraitpoi Pass, Curiosity still has a tough road ahead. This salty region presents its own challenges, and in particular, the rover's operations team must consider rocky surfaces that make it difficult to place all six Curiosity wheels on a stable surface at the same time.

If the rover is not stable, the operators They do not open it to prevent the drill from hitting rough rocks. Amador-French mentioned about this: "It seems that as the scientific results become more and more interesting, Mars puts more obstacles in front of us." However, the Curiosity rover will continue to explore this region. It will prove that after 10 years of being on Mars, it still has to cover a lot of areas.

Cover photo: Curiosity rover arriving at the salt area formed by the drying of water. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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