PHOTO: NASA’s Curiosity rover is monitoring an enormous mud storm on Mars (News)


NASA’s Curiosity rover is maintaining tabs on the large Martian mud storm that has sidelined its older cousin on the opposite facet of the planet.

That storm, which lined as a lot space as North America and Russia mixed as of at this time (June 12), has engulfed the golf-cart-size Alternative rover, plunging its environs into perpetual darkness. The solar-powered Alternative has subsequently quickly ceased science operations.

A latest photograph by Curiosity means that mud could also be encroaching a bit on its locale, the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater. However Curiosity is nuclear-powered, so a drop in daylight is not almost as regarding to its handlers. [Curiosity Rover’s 10 Biggest Mars Moments of Its 1st 5 Years]

Nonetheless, the Curiosity workforce is making an attempt to watch the storm.

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“To measure mud within the ambiance, we’ll first level Mastcam in direction of the solar and take a tau measurement, which lets us decide the optical depth vertically,” mission workforce member Rachel Kronyak wrote in an replace on Friday (June 8). (Mastcam, quick for “Mast Digicam,” is the two-camera system on Curiosity’s head-like mast. The cameras seize shade pictures and video of the Purple Planet panorama and soil for a wide range of functions.) 

“Then we’ll take a Mastcam picture of the crater rim to find out line-of-sight extinction, which is immediately associated to the quantity of mud current. ENV can even take just a few films with Navcam to evaluate clouds, wind course, and to search for mud devils,” Kronyak added. (“ENV” refers back to the mission’s environmental-science workforce. Navcam is Curiosity’s black-and-white navigation-camera system, whose photographs assist the rover workforce plan routes.)

This isn’t the primary main mud storm weathered by Alternative, which landed on the Purple Planet in January 2004: An excellent bigger storm pressured the rover to face down for 2 weeks in 2007. However the mud surrounding Alternative now’s a lot thicker than it was throughout that earlier storm, mission workforce members have stated.

Alternative beamed a message to its handlers on Sunday (June 10), which is an effective signal; it reveals the rover nonetheless has a good quantity of battery energy left. Mission workforce members have a fragile balancing act forward if the mud storm persists; they’re going to must run Alternative’s heaters sufficient to maintain the rover from freezing, however not a lot that they run out its batteries.

And Martian chilly can kill. Alternative’s twin, Spirit, which additionally touched down on the Purple Planet in January 2004, apparently froze to demise after getting caught in thick sand in 2010. 

Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater since August 2012. The car-size rover began its Mars mission on the crater ground, however it’s presently climbing by the foothills of Mount Sharp, which rises 3.four miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky from Gale’s middle.

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