NASA’s Curiosity rover is marking eleven years on Mars with an image of its toughest climb yet.
The car-sized robot has been exploring the Gale crater on the Red Planet since it landed on August 6, 2012.
But shortly before the anniversary, its team says they have had to help guide it up a steep, slippery slope to examine meteor craters.
A fascinating image shows several sets of tracks where the rover experienced a fault, or unexpected stoppage mid-drive while attempting the most difficult climb the mission has faced.
The intrepid bot was investigating a location nicknamed “Jau” that is pockmarked with dozens of impact craters.
NASA explains: “The path up the mountain over the last several months required the most arduous climb Curiosity has ever made.
“There have been steeper climbs and riskier terrain, but the mission has never faced the trifecta of challenges posed by this slope: a sharp 23-degree incline, slippery sand, and wheel-size rocks,” said NASA.
“NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured what NASA called a ‘Postcard’ using its navigation cameras to capture panoramas at two times of day on April 8, 2023,” said NASA.
“This trifecta left the rover struggling through a half-dozen drives in May and June, vexing Curiosity’s drivers back on Earth.”
Amy Hale, a Curiosity rover driver at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “If you’ve ever tried running up a sand dune on a beach – and that’s essentially what we were doing – you know it’s hard, but there were boulders in there as well.”
The team says Curiosity was never in danger while climbing to Jau, adding they never “plan anything that could damage the rover, and the planners write commands so that Curiosity will stop moving if it encounters any surprises.”
There have been many pictorial highlights from the rover’s mission so far. These have included quirky sights such as rock formations that have looked like a book, a doorway, and even bizarre spikes protruding from rocks.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Priscilla Jepchumba and Judy J. Rotich