NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, is all set to climb on what scientists consider the biggest sand dune on the Red Planet.
Curiosity, the rover which landed on Mars in August 2012, looks ready for Trekking the sand dune pictured above ,called the Dingo Gap.
Back in 2009 the rover Spirit, got its wheels stuck in a dune and could not be recovered.Prior to that, in April 2005 Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, had been stuck in a sand trap, and was only freed in June after a lot of simulation tests, the results of which helped them recover the rover. It is still active and continues to explore Mars. This is the reason why scientists are debating whether to send Curiosity down the dune, which is about a yard high, i.e 3 feet, and 10 yards long.
Scientists at the Mars Science Laboratory mission say that the rover will roll its way down the dune carefully, and if the wheels start to slip, it will pause and dig itself into a hole, like a car wheel in a snowdrift. The team also said that the rover’s wheels have suffered some unexpected damage in the form of scratches and scars. This has made them rethink about the rocky terrain. The damage could have occurred because of its “rapid transit route”, and it could have occurred due to the harsh winds of Gale Crater,which pushed sharp rocks into the wheels’ way. This led to a detour via the “pink path”, and now the rover faces the dune, crossing which could lead to better terrain.
The team then decided to make the rover climb the dune slowly and get a peek of the terrain lying beyond it, and they say it looks promising. If all goes well, Curiosity will climb down the Dingo Gap today.
Curiosity has previously found evidences of water and chemicals essential for life on Mars.
Via: LA Times , Image Credits :NASA, Wikipedia