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Obscured wheel, modified track, worn equipment ... What we know about the difficulties Curiosity's robot faced on Mars

Obscured wheel, modified track, worn equipment … What we know about the difficulties Curiosity’s robot faced on Mars

Buckets pile up for curiosity. NASA’s spacecraft has faced several difficulties in recent days as it continues its overland journey to Mars, which began nearly ten years ago. On April 13, Curiosity temporarily stuck one of its wheels – which was badly damaged – in a rock on the Red Planet. Enough to give a little cold sweat to the engineers who run the robot a few million kilometers away.

Temporarily locked wheel

On Wednesday, April 13, the Curiosity robot quietly continued its journey on the Red Planet when one of its six wheels got stuck in a rock. A pebble in his shoe who wasn’t Too obvious to get rid of. “While the situation on Earth would be easy to resolve, it is more complicated when the navigators are 254 million kilometers away.”explain Thomas Abery, Doctor of Planetary Science, on Twitter.

A wheel from the Curiosity rover on Mars on April 17, 2022 (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS)

Fortunately, the teams responsible for driving Curiosity in California successfully maneuvered to free the robot from this poor situation. “If there was no concern for the health and activity of the rover, it would have slowed our descent.”Planetary scientist Mark Salvatore reports on the NASA website (in English).

detour due to rocks

This isn’t the first time Curiosity has had to revise its course. At the beginning of April, NASA teams I decided to take a turn After seeing ‘crocodile’ rocks on their way. No, it’s not a trace of animal life on Mars, but “Stones Sharpened by the Wind” at a pace crocodile scalesAnd According to NASA. An alternate route was eventually found to avoid these gravel while continuing to explore Mount Sharp, a mountain in the middle of Gale Crater, according to reports. Nomirama.

rocks "crocodile" On Mars, March 15, 2022 (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS)

More and more worn out equipment

These inconveniences are no surprises to NASA. It must be said that Curiosity has been out of technical control for a few years already. As of 2017, the US space agency have alerted On the condition of his rover. Two of its aluminum wheels About 50 cm in diameter Equipped with straps that were already seriously damaged after several trips on sharp rocks. At the beginning of 2022, new images confirmed the unfortunate state of the robot.

A wheel from the Curiosity rover on Mars on Jan. 27, 2022 (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS)

Over the course of the discoveries, and after a few kilometers were traveled, the terrain that Curiosity crossed in Gale Crater turned out to be more dangerous than expected. “Il faut bien s’imaginer qu’il n’a pas plu depuis des milliards d’années. Les roches sont sculptées par le vent. (…) Si elles étaient sur Terre, il ne faudrait pas marcher dessus, vous elles the shoe!” William Rabin, a researcher at the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetary Science, warns with Nomirama. Faced with this, humans have taken over the daily control of Curiosity’s road in order to prevent the autopilot from driving into sharp areas… and trying to continue this Martian road trip until the end of the mission, scheduled for 2026.

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