Curiosity Rover Update: NASA Choses New Rock To Drill Into
By Afza Fathima | August 20, 2014 1:31 PM EST
The latest update on National Aeronautic and Space Administration's Curiosity Rover is that it will now be drilling a rock, named "Bonanza King", to help learn about the geological history of the Red Planet, according to Space.com.
The upper levels of the launch gantry, surrounding the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite onboard, are seen at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California in this June 29, 2014 handout photo by NASA. The NASA satellite being prepared for launch early on July 1, 2014 is expected to reveal details about where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is being released into Earth's atmosphere on a global scale. The two-year, $465 million project also will be able to pinpoint where the planet's forests and ocean are reabsorbing atmospheric carbon, a cycle that is key to Earth's temperature.
Initially, the Mars Curiosity Team had planned to excavate the Pahrump Hills area in August but they faced a lot of challenges while getting the instrument through the sandy areas. They then decided to drill Bonanza King which is similar to Pahrump Hills.
Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist, Ashwin Vasavada, said that geologically, Bonanza King rocks are similar to Pahrump Hills and this will give them an idea of how they fit into the bigger areas like the Gale Crater and Mount Sharp, an area that has evidence of the environment changes that ancient Mars had gone through.
The Curiosity Rover has a long-term mission of going to Mount Sharp which rises from within the Gale Crater to find the history of the planet from its transition of being a warm and wet planet to the cold and dry planet it is currently. Rocks that have been drilled in the past by the rover have been ones from the crater floor and not from the mountain itself.
Ashwin explained that Bonanza King is different from the sandstones that they've been drilling into and that since the landscape is changing, checking the rock will be worth it.
Researchers are looking into ways that the rover can reach the rock as they don't want to risk its safety by letting it travel through the sandy areas of the Hidden Valley as the NASA officials have said that there is no way out of it except through the northeastern and southwestern ends.
Jim Erickson, the Curiosity project manager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement, "We need to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the wheels and Martian sand ripples, and Hidden Valley is not a good location for experimenting."
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