NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover begins its summer road trip that will see it traverse roughly a mile of terrain. Its final destination will have it ascending to the next section of the 3-mile-tall Mount Sharp, which it’s been exploring since 2014, searching for conditions that may have supported ancient microbial life. Read more for a video and additional information.
Mount Sharp is located on the floor of Gale Crater and composed of sedimentary layers that built up over time. Each layer tells a story about how Mars changed from being more Earth-like – with lakes, streams and a thicker atmosphere – to the nearly-airless cold desert it is today. The rover has top speeds that range between 82 and 328 feet per hour depending on the terrain. Some parts of this trip will be completed using the rover’s automated driving abilities, which enable Curiosity to find the safest paths forward on its own.
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Curiosity can’t drive entirely without humans in the loop. But it does have the ability to make simple decisions along the way to avoid large rocks or risky terrain. It stops if it doesn’t have enough information to complete a drive on its own,” said Matt Gildner, lead rover driver at JPL.