[meteorite-list] Curiosity Rover Adds Reverse Driving for Wheel Protection

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2014 12:38:45 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201402202038.s1KKcjwe019042_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Curiosity Adds Reverse Driving for Wheel Protection
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
February 19, 2014

Mars Science Laboratory Mission Status Report

Terrain that NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is now crossing is as smooth as
team members had anticipated based on earlier images from orbit.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the rover covered 329 feet (100.3 meters), the
mission's first long trek that used reverse driving and its farthest
one-day advance of any kind in more than three months.

The reverse drive validated feasibility of a technique developed with
testing on Earth to lessen damage to Curiosity's wheels when driving
over terrain studded with sharp rocks. However, Tuesday's drive took the
rover over more benign ground.

"We wanted to have backwards driving in our validated toolkit because
there will be parts of our route that will be more challenging," said
Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The rover team used images taken from orbit to reassess possible routes,
after detecting in late 2013 that holes in the vehicle's aluminum wheels
were accumulating faster than anticipated. Getting to the chosen route,
which appeared to be less hazardous for the wheels, required crossing a
3-foot-tall (1-meter-tall) dune. Curiosity crossed the dune on Feb. 9.

Erickson said, "After we got over the dune, we began driving in terrain
that looks like what we expected based on the orbital data. There are
fewer sharp rocks, many of them are loose, and in most places there's a
little bit of sand cushioning the vehicle."

The mission's destinations remain the same: a science waypoint first and
then the long-term goal of investigating the lower slopes of Mount
Sharp, where water-related minerals have been detected from orbit.

The science waypoint, which may be where Curiosity next uses its
sample-collecting drill, is an intersection of different rock layers
about two-thirds of a mile (about 1.1 kilometers) ahead on the planned
route. This location, formerly called KMS-9 from when it was one of many
waypoint candidates, is now called "Kimberley," for the geological
mapping quadrant that contains it. The mapping quadrant was named for
the northwestern Australia region with very old rocks.

While the rover is headed for the Kimberley waypoint and during the time
it spends doing science investigations there, the team will use orbital
imagery to choose a path for continuing toward the long-term destination.

"We have changed our focus to look at the big picture for getting to the
slopes of Mount Sharp, assessing different potential routes and
different entry points to the destination area," Erickson said. "No
route will be perfect; we need to figure out the best of the imperfect

Curiosity has driven 937 feet (285.5 meters) since the Feb. 9
dune-crossing, for a total odometry of 3.24 miles (5.21 kilometers)
since its August 2012 landing.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess
ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian
environmental conditions. JPL, a division of the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for
NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information
about Curiosity, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl ,
http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. You can
follow the mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity
and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Thu 20 Feb 2014 03:38:45 PM PST

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