NASA Curiosity Rover Is Embarking on a Summer Road Trip Across Mars

Hopefully, Curiosity won't get caught up and end up getting stuck on Martian sand.
Derya Ozdemir

The summer for us on Earth might have taken a darker turn due to COVID-19; however, thankfully, there is no pandemic on Mars. Even if there were, Curiosity wouldn't mind it we assume.

NASA announced on Monday that Curiosity's "summer road trip" at Mount Sharp would start. "By trip’s end, the rover will be able to ascend to the next section of the 3-mile-tall Martian (5-kilometer-tall) mountain it’s been exploring since 2014, searching for conditions that may have supported ancient microbial life," NASA stated.

During the journey, the Martian voyager will cover a distance of around a mile (1.6 km) and take several months to complete.


Now that Curiosity has finished exploring the clay-bearing unit, it has got its eyes, well, cameras,  on the sulfate-bearing unit. In order to understand how the "climate and prospects for life changed nearly 3 billion years ago", Curiosity will be looking at these areas that highlight the history of water in Gale Crater.

NASA Curiosity Rover Is Embarking on a Summer Road Trip Across Mars
Made of 28 images, Curiosity captured this photo from "Greenheugh Pediment" on April 9, 2020. At center is the "clay-bearing unit." Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

However, it is a bumpy road that goes there since all can not be roses. Curiosity will need to navigate through a large area of hazardous sand to reach its destination, which means it will either drive around it or risk getting stuck. Latter was the case for the Mars Spirit rover which got stuck in a sand trap in 2009, which is why NASA scientists have some sort of a beef with the Martian sand.

NASA Curiosity Rover Is Embarking on a Summer Road Trip Across Mars
Made of 116 images, this view captured by Curiosity shows the path it will take for its summer trip as it goes to the "sulfate-bearing unit." Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover team will plan the basic path and Curiosity's automated driving abilities will respond to potential terrain obstacles and use its own smarts to find the safest path. This summer road trip won't all be completed in solitude though, since the rover team, some currently working from home due to COVID-19 pandemic, may make Curiosity stop along the way for drilling samples and inspect anything that captures their attention.

Most Popular
NASA Curiosity Rover Is Embarking on a Summer Road Trip Across Mars
The textures in the center of this image were formed by water billions of years ago. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity is expected to reach its destination in early fall and once it arrives there, it will continue its search for ancient microbial life conditions. 

You can check out Curiosity’s route through this animation that was released by the space agency last year.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron