NASA’s Curiosity rover has officially completed the “Windjana” site drilling mission and is now back en course to Mount Sharp.
Laboratory instruments inside NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover have received the portions of powdered rock collected by drilling into a sandstone target last week. According to a press release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Curiosity mission managers are now ready to take care of mission Mount Sharp.
Mount Sharp is a multi-layered structure, three-mile-higher than Windjana.
Other instruments on the rover have examined the rock’s interior wide-open in the hole and in drill cuttings heaped around the hole. The instrument that fires a laser from atop the rover’s mast zapped a series of points inside the hole with sharpshooter accuracy.
Curiosity was launched on November 26, 2011, as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission to exploring the enormous Gale Crater.
The target rock, “Windjana,” is a sandstone slab within a science waypoint area called “The Kimberley.”
This journey of the Mars rover to Mount Sharp will provide the scientists with valuable information on the composition of Mar’s atmosphere as well as its ability to support microbial life.
The last two targets Curiosity drilled into were mudstones and both shown substantiation of water prevailing on the Red Planet at one point.
However due to deteriorating atmospheric conditions of the Red planet, all water or life forms would have dried up. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) was launched in Nov. to find out the past of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
“By combining (Solar Wind Ion Analyzer, or SWIA) measurements with measurements of escaping gases we can parameterize the loss of atmospheric gases from Mars as a function of solar wind conditions,” Halekas said in a NASA press release. “Ultimately, we want to know where the atmosphere, especially water, went, how it left, and what Mars has looked like over its entire history.”
“No matter how much testing we perform in advance, and we do a staggering amount, there are inevitably things that we just can’t plan for or simulate in a lab,” Halekas said. “I anticipate that the first few weeks after SWIA is turned on in flight and the first few weeks after arrival at Mars will therefore be especially exciting and challenging, as we learn how to best operate the instrument in the Martian environment.”