Curiosity spent 6 months in the Gale Crater Glenelg area on Mars, but the NASA rover is now moving on to the Mount Sharp area. This journey began on July 4th, but will take Curiosity nearly one year to reach its destination.
Curiosity first landed on Mars in a remarkable maneuver 334 Martian days ago. The landing, which was guided entirely by a 500,000 line coded computer algorithm, included a rocket guided entry and a supersonic parachute, as well as a skycrane for tethering the 2000 pound rover to the surface of Mars. This amazing landing was used in place of the normal airbag landing apparatus normally used by NASA, due to the rover’s much larger size. The entire landing, from the 13,200 mph slam into the atmosphere to the heat shield control and parachute deployment, were all controlled completely by computer, making this one of the most ambitious, yet successful, landing missions to date.
Since that time, it has explored the Glenelg area, where it has made some interesting discoveries. During its explorations of the area, Curiosity discovered minerals and streambeds that provide an indication that there may have been an ancient wet environment conducive to maintaining life.
The 4×4 sized, nuclear powered Rover completed its exploration of the Shaler outcrop, and left that area to begin the long journey to Mount Sharp.
Intended Destination: Mount Sharp
Even though NASA has stated that Curiosity already accomplished the science objectives hoped for on this mission, it is now moving towards an area called Mount Sharp, where it continues to search for areas that could show that there is, or once was, life on Mars.
Scientists believe that the Mount Sharp area contains a large amount of exposed rock layers that need to be studied. Curiosity will investigate Mount Sharp to determine whether there are exposed layers of rocks in the area, which scientists believe will contain evidence of ancient Mars, and show how the environment has changed since that time.
Curiosity will continue on the two year, $2.5 billion mission that was designed and planned for the purpose of determining not only whether there are signs of previous life on Mars, but also to seek out the possibilities of the planet currently supporting life in some areas. The information gathered about the ancient streambeds in the Glenelg area have scientists hopeful.