Mars rover takes 'cool' detour: NASA

August 17, 2012
The landing site of NASA's Curiosity rover toward the lower reaches of Mount Sharp, where Curiosity is likely to begin its ascent through hundreds of feet (meters) of layered deposits. Curiosity will make a wide detour to explore a geographical hot spot on Mars because "it looks cool," scientists said.

The US space agency NASA's Mars rover Curiosity will make a wide detour to explore a "cool" geographical hot spot on Mars, scientists said Friday.

The scientists also reported they found temperatures in the Red Planet's Gale Crater to be just above freezing, the first monitoring of temperatures in three decades.

Before driving to its destination at Mount Sharp, which may contain traces of water, Curiosity will head in the opposite direction, to a spot 's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has dubbed Glenelg.

The Pasadena lab said the geologically-rich area marks the intersection of three kinds of terrain 1,640 feet (500 meters) from the rover's landing site.

A light-colored patch of terrain in the region indicates to scientists "a kind of bedrock suitable for eventual drilling by Curiosity."

A cluster of small craters may represent "an older or harder surface" and another spot features a patch of land resembling the rover's landing site, before the nuclear-powered apparatus "scoured away some of the surface," NASA said.

Scientists said they chose the name Glenelg because it is a palindrome -- a word read the same way backward and forward -- and the rover will need to travel back in the same direction to head toward Mount Sharp.

This self-portrait shows the deck of NASA's Curiosity rover from the rover's Navigation camera.

The Glenelg trek will be the rover's first "moderate duration drive target," Mars Science Laboratory project scientist John Grotzinger told reporters, explaining the decision to risk traveling off the planned route.

"It looks cool," he said.

Grotzinger estimated the rover's journey will take between three weeks and two months to arrive at Glenelg, where it will stay for roughly a month, before heading to the base of Mount Sharp.

Analysts have said it may be a full year before the remote-controlled rover gets to the base of the peak, which is believed to be within a dozen miles (20 kilometers) of the rover's landing site.

A photo of the lower reaches of Mount Sharp, taken from Curiosity's landing site, shows "hills, buttes, mesas and canyons on the scale of one-to-three-story buildings."

Scientists hope the hydrated minerals thought to be concentrated in the bottom half of the photographed lower reaches will "reveal the area's geological history."

The Mars Science Laboratory is expected to travel as far as halfway up Mount Sharp, a towering three-mile Martian mountain with sediment layers that may be up to a billion years old.

NASA plans to obtain photos of the summit "in a week or two."

Grotzinger noted the team's report on the Martian crater's temperature was "really an important benchmark for ."

"It's been exactly 30 years since the last long duration monitoring weather station was present on Mars," when Viking 1 stopped communicating with Earth in 1982," he said.

The $2.5 billion rover arrived on Mars at 0531 GMT on August 6.

Explore further: NASA to choose between 2 Mars landing sites

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1 / 5 (2) Aug 18, 2012
The concept itself is just about there. This thread has brought out the 'I would go in a heartbeat' all the way down to the extreme pessimistic view that we cannot do this. Both points are valid. I personally would go, the caveat being that design and implementation seemed sound enough for me at the time. The 'can't's fear the unknown, wisely. The 'cans' want this to work. Even if this falls flat on it's face, as it most likely will, the dialog presents potential failures to be overcome. I think we can. Not on the budget initially presented. But we can. The dialog is important.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2012
I think you posted under the wrong thread, dub1. You want the MarsOne thread I think.
not rated yet Aug 19, 2012
I thought they were all excited a few months ago because they were going to nail a landing closer to the crater than they thought. Now they're backing away from the crater then heading back to it?
5 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2012
They're already inside the crater. But they'll make a small detour away from their primary goal, Mount Sharp.

It's just a short detour, and the spot that they'll visit is very interesting scientifically, really interesting. They feel that it's worth a small detour.

Even at the farthest point in this detour, they'll still be much closer to their primary goal than they could ever plan to land with previous landing systems.

The detour is also useful in another way. They need some warming-up, to get used to their instruments and procedures.

For those who are impatient, this little detour is actually very good news. The detour is much quicker than the trip to Mount Sharp. This way we'll see interesting stuff much sooner than we would if they went directly to Mount Sharp.
not rated yet Aug 21, 2012
the first monitoring of Mars temperatures in three decades.

That's absolutely wrong. Every lander and rover we have sent to Mars includes a weather package to measure temperature, pressure, wind speed, etc. Even the small Pathfinder had one.

It's been exactly 30 years since the last long duration monitoring weather station was present on Mars," when Viking 1 stopped communicating with Earth in 1982," he said

Opportunity has been continually monitoring the weather for almost 10 years now, so that's wrong too. Here's a graph of daily temperatures from Spirit (not the full data set though):


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