It’s been a bit quiet recently regarding the Mars Rover. We are talking about 'Curiosity', the Mars rover which is searching for evidence of life on the red planet since its landing in August 2012.
It’s reassuring for his fans to know: Curiosity is still active and delivers scientific data to earth. Originally his job was scheduled to two years. But like his predecessors 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity' the rover is on duty much, much longer than originally anticipated.
Curiosity" will drive as long as possible
According to the original schedule the second birthday of Curiosity on Mars would have meant the end of the 2.5 billion dollar mission (about 1.9 billion Euro). But thanks to its great success Curiosity’s time has been prolonged and it will work “as long as possible” on the red planet. Even a stay for a decade on Mars seems to be a realistic estimation for the scientists of the „Curiosity“ team. The rover has become the researcher’s favourite robot as it brightened up NASA’s image, which until then was considered to be a bit out of date. And furthermore the rover provides non-stop scientific data, pictures and data. The Mars exploration rover with the size of a small car has already travelled more than 16 kilometers on the red planet. It had to withstand storms, computer breakdowns and short circuits. For the daily work it used its laser, collected samples of stones and sent hundreds of gigabytes of data and pictures to the earth. All this could was possible because the rover moves. On-board are high-precision and miniaturized sensors from Sensitec which are used to detect the angle (position) of the wheels, the suspension, the robot arm, the camera head and the communications antenna. The extreme temperature fluctuations and high radiation levels on the surface of Mars demand robust, reliable sensors. Sensitec has become a regular on Mars missions. Following its successful contribution to the "Spirit" and "Opportunity" missions, "Curiosity" marks the second trip to the red Planet for the Lahnau-based company. The researchers at NASA are proud to see that the mission runs smoothly – apart from some trouble with the wheel, which has caused some anxiety since 2013. To solve this problem the experts changed the route and way of driving. So according to NASA the mission is not endangered.
1.6 million "Curiosity" fans on Twitter
For the long term the rover, which counts nearly 1.6 million fans fans on Twitter, shall prepare the way for humans on the red planet. Recently 'Curiosity' is nearly alone on Mars – only the predecessor 'Opportunity' is still rolling at some distance. For 2020 it is planned to launch 'Curiosity 2.0' - and "in the 2030ies" humans shall follow. "The success by 'Curiosity' will move us forward", says NASA-Chief Charles Bolden. "Wheel traces will lead to foot prints in the future."
TIP: A visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington (NASM), D.C.
A full-scale model of the Mars Exploration Rover 'Curiosity' is now on display together with its predecessors Opportunity and Pathfinder in the “Exploring the Planets” gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Each model represents technological advancements of the Mars rover fleet. The „Three Rovers“ exhibit opened to the public on March 20th, 2015. The exhibit features full scale replicas of three generations of rovers that have successfully landed on Mars: Curiosity, Pathfinder and Opportunity. Each are prominently displayed in a simulated Mars setting. NASM attracts over 7 million visitors annually. The exhibition is worth visiting.
More information: Smithsonian
Copyright/Owner: Smithsonian Institution, Photographer: Eric Long