[meteorite-list] NASA's Curiosity Rover Making Tracks and Observations

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:38:20 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201504172138.t3HLcKlN007837_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NASA's Curiosity Rover Making Tracks and Observations
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
April 16, 2015

Fast Facts:

* Curiosity has passed the mission's 10-kilometer mark as it heads for
its next science destination, called "Logan Pass"

* The rover is approaching a corrugated geological unit that overlies
the layers examined by Curiosity

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is continuing science observations while on
the move this month. On April 16, the mission passed 10 kilometers (6.214
miles) of total driving since its 2012 landing, including about a fifth
of a mile (310 meters) so far this month.

The rover is trekking through a series of shallow valleys between the
"Pahrump Hills" outcrop, which it investigated for six months, and the
next science destination, "Logan Pass," which is still about 200 yards,
or meters, ahead toward the southwest.

"We've not only been making tracks, but also making important observations
to characterize rocks we're passing, and some farther to the south at
selected viewpoints," said John Grant of the National Air and Space Museum,
Washington. Grant is a Curiosity science team member who has been the
team's long-term planner in recent days.

A drive of 208 feet (63.5 meters) during the mission's 957th Martian day,
early Thursday, took Curiosity past a cumulative 10 kilometers of total
Martian ground-distance covered. This is based on mapped distance covered
by each drive; by wheel odometery, the rover reached 10 kilometers last
week, but the mapped tally is considered a more precise measure of distance
covered, excluding wheel slippage.

Curiosity is examining the lower slopes of a layered mountain, Mount Sharp,
to investigate how the region's ancient environment evolved from lakes
and rivers to much drier conditions. Sites at Pahrump Hills exposed the
mountain's basal geological layer, named the Murray formation. Nearby,
high-standing buttes are examples of terrain called the Washboard unit,
from its corrugated appearance as seen from orbit.

"The trough we're driving through is bounded by exposures of the Washboard
unit, with gaps at some places that allow us to see farther south to higher
exposures of it," Grant said. "At Logan Pass, we hope to investigate the
relationship between the Murray formation and the Washboard unit, to help
us understand the ancient depositional setting and how environmental conditions
were changing. The observations we're making now help establish the context
for what we'll see there."

"The rover's mobility has been crucial, because that's what allows us
to get to the best sites to investigate," Grant said. "The ability to
get to different sections of the rock record builds more confidence in
your interpretation of each section."

>From observations made by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, topographically
ridged terrain that has beenategorized as the Washboard unit has been
mapped at many locations around Mount Sharp -- on the south flank of the
mountain as well as the northern flank Curiosity is climbing -- and on
the surrounding plains.

"Understanding the Washboard unit and what processes formed it could put
what we've been studying into a wider context," Grant said.

Curiosity spent much of its first 12 months on Mars investigating locations
close to its landing site north of Mount Sharp. Findings during that period
included evidence for ancient rivers and a lakebed environment that offered
conditions favorable for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life.
After leaving the landing vicinity, Curiosity drove to reach Mount Sharp,
with a few extended stops at science waypoints along the route before
arriving in September 2014.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 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:



You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:



Media Contact

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

Received on Fri 17 Apr 2015 05:38:20 PM PDT

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