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Mars Curiosity rover celebrates 10 year landing anniversary

Mars Curiosity rover celebrates 10 year landing anniversary

Today, NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrates 10 years on Mars, and it’s still going strong since its August 6, 2012. the planet, but has also demonstrated a host of engineering concepts that have made rovers bigger and better than ever before.

When you think of a Mars rover, many people think of something small, like the microwave-sized Sojourner that landed on Mars in 1997, or the Opportunity and Spirit golf carts that landed in 2004. But Curiosity marked the beginning of much bigger robbers, as it and Perseverance are the size of a car and significantly heavier than their trailblazing brethren. This increase in size and mass means that newer rovers can carry much more complex scientific instruments, transforming rovers from tiny explorers who could only collect basic data in mobile labs. It is on that principle that Curiosity got its technical mission name, Mars Science Laboratory.

A poster produced by NASA to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Curiosity Mars rover on the Red Planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech

However, a larger and heavier rover faces a greater challenge, in terms of how to land it on Mars. Previous generations of Mars rovers were covered in airbags and essentially landed on the surface they would bounce around before coming to a stop, with air in the airbags protecting them from impact. But Curiosity’s considerable mass made airbags ineffective, so a new landing system was developed.

The overhead crane system that brought both Curiosity and Perseverance safely to the surface of Mars works by using a jetpack that fires thrusters to slow the descent while lowering the rover onto a set of cables. Once the rover has landed, the cables will come loose and the jetpack will fly away to prevent the rover from tangling. This system helps to place a rover in a specific and predictable location, as opposed to the unpredictable bounce of airbags, and it can safely drop much heavier robbers.

Curiosity immediately captured the hearts of the public and has produced stunning images of the Martian landscape and beautiful images of clouds, alongside work looking for signs of ancient life and measuring the Martian atmosphere. Some of the most popular outreach projects include huge panoramas and high-resolution videos showing the Gale Crater, where he is exploring.

However, Mars is still a tough environment and Curiosity has faced challenges such as sharp rocks that damaged its wheels. To address this issue, the rover team is taking great care in how they use Curiosity to make sure that the least amount of damage is done to the hardware so that it can continue to run for as long as possible.

“Once you land on Mars, everything you do is based on the fact that there’s no one around to fix it for 100 million miles,” Andy Mishkin, Curiosity’s acting project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “It’s all about making intelligent use of what’s already inside your rover.”

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