Curiosity rover captures spectacular Martian mountain snapshot

Mar 03, 2014 by Ken Kremer, Universe Today
Martian landscape scene with rows of striated rocks in the foreground and spectacular Mount Sharp on the horizon. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover paused mid drive at the Junda outcrop to snap the component images for this colorized navcam camera photomosaic on Sol 548 (Feb. 19, 2014) and then continued traveling southwards towards mountain base. UHF Antenna at right. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

Like any good tourist, NASA's rover Curiosity apparently couldn't resist the photobug urge from a gorgeous Martian mountain scene she happened by recently and decided to pull over and enjoy the view.

So she stopped the dune buggy mid-drive on the sandy road to her daily destination one Sol last week on Feb. 19, powered up the camera suite and excitedly snapped a spectacular landscape view of a striated rock field dramatically back dropped by towering Mount Sharp on the horizon.

See our Mars rocks and Mount Sharp photomosaic above and a 3-D stereoscopic view from NASA below.

The sedimentary foothills of Mount Sharp, which reaches 3.4 miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky, is the 1 ton robots ultimate destination inside Gale Crater because it holds caches of water altered minerals.

And just for good measure, Curiosity also snapped a series of breathtaking look back photos showing her tracks in the dune filled terrain from whence she came since straddling through the Dingo Gap gateway.

The panoramic mountain view taken on Sol 548 shows rows of striated rocks all oriented in a similar direction in the foreground with Mount Sharp in the background.

Scientists directed Curiosity to drive by the rock rows nicknamed "Junda" after their interest was piqued by orbital images taken by the powerful telescopic camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) circling overhead.

The six wheeled rover paused during the planned Feb. 19 drive of 328 feet (100 meters) to capture the imagery.

Curiosity looks back across dune field to her wheel tracks and a small crater she just missed. Flattened rear hazcam image, colorized from Sol 555 (Feb 27, 2014). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer-kenkremer.com

She then pushed forward to finish the day's drive and snapped another fabulous look back view – see our mosaic below.

And the next day on Feb. 20 (Sol 549), she also completed her second 100 meter drive in reverse.

Her handlers are occasionally commanding Curiosity to drive backwards in a newly tested bid to minimize serious damage to the six 20 inch diameter wheels in the form of rips and tears caused by rough edged Red Planet rocks.

Curiosity is well on the way to her next near term goal, which is a science waypoint, named Kimberly (formerly called KMS-9), which lies about half a mile ahead.

Kimberly is of interest to the science team because it sits at an the intersection of different rock layers and also features ground with striations like those at "Junda".

So, after the rover reaches Kimberly, researchers plan to temporarily halt driving for awhile to investigate the location and direct the robot to drill into another rock to collect samples for analysis by the two state- of-the -art chemistry labs.

If drilling is warranted, Kimberly would be the site of Curiosity's first drilling operation since the Cumberland outcrop target was bored into during the spring of 2013 at Yellowknife Bay.

Curiosity departed the Yellowknife Bay region in July 2013 where she discovered a habitable zone and thereby accomplished the primary goal of the mission.

Curiosity looks back at Martian sand dunes and rover tracks after passing by Junda outcrop (right) on Sol 548 (Feb. 19, 2014) with Gale Crater rim and Mount Sharp on the distant horizon. Navcam colorized photomosaic. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

To date, Curiosity's odometer stands at 5.3 kilometers and she has taken over 125,000 images.

The robot has somewhat less than another 5 km to go to reach the base of Mount Sharp.

She perhaps may arrive sometime in mid 2014.

Arrival time at Mount Sharp depends on driving speed and whether the upcoming terrain is smoother or strewn with sharp edged rocks that have hindered progress due to accumulating wear and tear on the aluminum wheels.

Meanwhile, NASA's sister Opportunity rover is exploring clay mineral outcrops by the summit of Solander Point on the opposite side of Mars at the start of her 2nd Decade investigating the Red Planet's mysteries.

A pair of new orbiters are streaking to the Red Planet to fortify Earth's invasion fleet- NASA's MAVEN and India's MOM.

Explore further: Curiosity adds reverse driving for wheel protection

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TheGhostofOtto1923
3.3 / 5 (4) Mar 03, 2014
All photos are available on the msl jpl website under raw images. There's no discussion of that crater or how the rover was able to avoid it. Perhaps it's autonomous program did this. I'm curious.
Bonia
Mar 03, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 03, 2014
It would be nice to have some continuous video of the ride at last.
There is an animation with little detail showing the entire journey. Its not bad but its not very informative. Maybe the next rover will have a google cam. Maybe someone will take the time to edit all the pics into something like they did the descent which is truly spectacular.
http://www.youtub...5juUzhpU
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Mar 03, 2014
"She"? Anthropomorphising much? Why not BARBARA STREISAND?

Now we know the why of China's Jade Gate Rabbit and Yuvutu.
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2014
One would think that they could have faced the aluminium wheels with a basic elastomer compound, like Marrs resistant rubber.....

Like "Oh Duh!"

"Arrival time at Mount Sharp depends on driving speed and whether the upcoming terrain is smoother or strewn with sharp edged rocks that have hindered progress due to accumulating wear and tear on the aluminium wheels."

Of course light weight mesh type aluminium wheels are going to get chewed up to the shit-house over sharp rocks....

That is what sharp rocks do to aluminium mesh wheels.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2014
One would think that they could have faced the aluminium wheels with a basic elastomer compound, like Marrs resistant rubber.....

Do you know what those kinds of temperatures and low pressures do to rubber? They turn it into brittle dust.

Disintegrating rubber wheels would be an enormous hindrance on Mars
Sinister1812
3 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2014
Mountain climbing would take less effort on Mars, compared to Earth. lol And some are probably twice the size of Everest too.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2014
Disintegrating rubber wheels would be an enormous hindrance on Mars
What gives you the idea that there isn't a suitable product for the application? What makes you think it would be called 'rubber' ?

"When it connected to the International Space Station over northwest Australia this morning, the SpaceX commercial spacecraft company's innovative Falcon 9 rocket features Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics OmniSeal® spring energized seals and Meldin® 7000 polyimide bearings in many critical parts of all of the spacecraft's nine engines and thrusters."
aluminium mesh wheels.
Yeah good thing they aren't mesh. Here's an ominous pic of severe damage.
http://mars.jpl.n...DXXX.jpg
GSwift7
4 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2014
One would think that they could have faced the aluminium wheels with a basic elastomer compound


Just making them a little thicker would probably be adequate (if they actually end up failing, which they haven't yet). You don't need to make them indestructable, just last long enough to complete the mission. The RTG on Curiosity won't last forever anyway. The entire rover is really a one-time-use disposable unit.

The wear on the wheels was somewhat expected, but they ended up landing way out on the far side of the landing zone, so they've had to do a lot more driving than they hoped. It's okay for now though, so don't make a bigger deal out of it than it really is. All six wheels are still working, and unless they end up having to make a huge detour, they should make it to the mountain. Also, now that they have noticed the problem, then can drive around rough terrain to minimize further damage, like they're already doing.
GSwift7
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2014
Yeah good thing they aren't mesh. Here's an ominous pic of severe damage


Yeah, they aren't too bad yet.

I just noticed something I didn't notice before. In the pic you linked to, notice the rectangular cutouts in the wheel, then look at the spacing of the ribs along the edge of the wheel. They are spaced much closer where those holes are, must be for support. And if you look at the other wheel, it shows that part of the wheel facing the camera and the ribs are straight rather than w shaped. I wonder what those rectangular cutouts are for? Any clue? Maybe it attached to the sky crane or the heat shield there? they sure went to a lot of trouble modifying the wheels in order to include those holes. Looks like an afterthought with a bandaid solution to me, or a last minute change or something.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Mar 04, 2014
I wonder what those rectangular cutouts are for? Any clue?

@GSwift7
maybe there was a temporary attachment there during the transit to Mars?
There is also the speculation about weight. Most probably it was for both IMHO.
when aircraft parts are manufactured, they need to be strong but lightweight. Aluminum is either milled or chemically etched. Milling causes heat stress/etc so cannot be used for everything, so chemical etching/removal is also used
some A/C parts have similar holes that are used for conduit, attachments, as well as just plain weight reduction
so maybe this was an issue of reducing weight but a practical purpose of attachment to the heat shield etc which would make sense given the fact that the holes seem to be only in one place on the wheel (also on the other wheel shown), and not all over the wheel

just my speculations on it
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.5 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2014
And if you look at the other wheel, it shows that part of the wheel facing the camera and the ribs are straight rather than w shaped. I wonder what those rectangular cutouts are for? Any clue?... maybe there was a temporary attachment


"Each wheel has a pattern that helps it maintain traction but also leaves patterned tracks in the sandy surface of Mars. That pattern is used by on-board cameras to judge the distance traveled. The pattern itself is Morse code for "JPL" (·--- ·--· ·-··)..."

-This is from the fucking wiki page. Jesus fucking christ.
Yeah, they aren't too bad yet.
Yes they ARE bad. Look closely at the wheel in the pic I posted, at its 7:00. See the long leaf torn out next to the rib? They are not even half way there. The roughest part will most likely be the lateral trek to the mountain and then the mountain itself.
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2014
I wonder what those rectangular cutouts are for?

@GSwift7
given there was no citation on the Wiki page I was speculating about other reasons as well as trying to make sure for myself.

per JPL
The cut-outs in the wheels provide actual odometry by allowing the number of wheel turns to be counted.  The cut-outs provide fiducials (measurement points) in the tracks left by the wheels in the surface. They mark each full rotation of the wheel.  By looking back at the path taken by Curiosity an actual count of rotations can be made, independent of the electronic counter(s) on the wheel(s).  The electronic counters might get fooled if the wheel slips in sand, for example
Stephen Edberg
Astronomer
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology


GSwift7
5 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2014
This is from the fucking wiki page. Jesus fucking christ


lol! You must be a blast at parties.

And they expected to get holes in the wheels. The wheels can take quite a bit of these holes without failing, so stop being so melodramatic. They only need to go a short distance farther.

"The wear in the wheels is expected," Matt Heverly, lead rover driver for the MSL mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News via email. "The 'skin' of the wheel is only 0.75mm thick and we expect dents, dings, and even a few holes due to the wheels interacting with the rocks."
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2014
they expected to get holes in the wheels...They only need to go a short distance farther
...So you are finally looking stuff up... But where did you get the 'short distance'?

"The rate of wheel damage has picked up dramatically as the driving pace accelerated across the rugged, rock filled Martian terrain over the past six months and put over 4.89 kilometers (3.04 mi.) on the odometer to date... In theory, Curiosity's primary mission is scheduled to last 668 Martian sols, or 23 Earth months... 668 sols will give Curiosity enough time to reach Mount Sharp and dig into the sedimentary layers there..."

2nd paragraph, wiki page:
"The rover mission is set to explore for at least 687 Earth days (1 Martian year) over a range of 5 by 20 km (3.1 by 12.4 mi)"

-So I was wrong - they have only travelled at most 1/3 of the way. I dont know if the wheels will fail when the aluminum between the ribs disappears but its possible that it acts to support the ribs whose joints could then fail.
GSwift7
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2014
But where did you get the 'short distance'?


The test rover here on Earth has driven many times farther than the real rover is ever likely to go. The remaining distance to the mountain shouldn't be a problem. Curiosity was never intended to last as long as Opportunity has.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2014
But where did you get the 'short distance'?


The test rover here on Earth has driven many times farther than the real rover is ever likely to go. The remaining distance to the mountain shouldn't be a problem. Curiosity was never intended to last as long as Opportunity has.
Uh how do you know these things and what do they have to do with what we were talking about? Opportunity was meant to last 90 days. Curiosity is designed to last about 2 years.

Instead of dodging and hedging why wouldnt you just want to admit you were wrong??
GSwift7
3 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2014
Uh how do you know these things and what do they have to do with what we were talking about? Opportunity was meant to last 90 days. Curiosity is designed to last about 2 years.

Instead of dodging and hedging why wouldnt you just want to admit you were wrong??


Here's an interview:

http://news.disco...1220.htm

Here's a quote:

The wheels can sustain significant damage without impairing the rover's ability to drive


He also says they are concerned about damage from rough terrain, but they're changing their driving plan to avoid that (paraphrased).

Here's another article, though older:

http://news.disco...0522.htm

As of last May, the test rover had driven 7.5 miles. I can't find current distance but I assume they're still driving.

Wrong about what? The damage to the wheels is expected and should not be a problem for the mission (per JPL)
GSwift7
3 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2014
Opportunity was meant to last 90 days. Curiosity is designed to last about 2 years


Read my comment again. I said that curiosity will not last as long as opportunity has, which is 10 years now. Curiosity cannot last that long because of its RTG power source, which continually decreases its max power output. Grunsfeld made some silly comment about the RTG having "positive power margin" for 55 years, but the minimum for basic system operation is way above that level. There's an article which suggests that curiosity might still be driving when the next rover gets there (in 2021) but that's pure fantasy IIRC from other articles. There are a handful of essential systems, like computers, transmitter, heaters, battery chargers, etc. without which the rover is dead.

The reason that matters here is because the wheels are useless if there's not enough power for the motors. They just need to outlast the power supply.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2014
Read my comment again. I said that curiosity will not last as long as opportunity has, which is 10 years now. Curiosity cannot last that long because of its RTG power source
But we weren't talking about any of that were we? You said
They only need to go a short distance farther
-while I showed you that they have only gone 1/3 of the way.

You think by changing the subject you're going to appear somehow less wrong? The wheels are critically damaged which is why they are traveling out of their way and driving backwards. They are afraid they're not going to make it.

So answer my question - where did you get the idea that they only need to go a short distance farther? Please try to be honest this time.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2014
As of last May, the test rover had driven 7.5 miles. I can't find current distance but I assume they're still driving
G, now I GAVE you all that info in the above thread. Please take some time and read it. It has driven nowheres near 7.5 mi.

Here, I'll post it for you again.

"The rate of wheel damage has picked up dramatically as the driving pace accelerated across the rugged, rock filled Martian terrain over the past six months and put over 4.89 kilometers (3.04 mi.) on the odometer to date... In theory, Curiosity's primary mission is scheduled to last 668 Martian sols, or 23 Earth months... 668 sols will give Curiosity enough time to reach Mount Sharp and dig into the sedimentary layers there..."

2nd paragraph, wiki page:
"The rover mission is set to explore for at least 687 Earth days (1 Martian year) over a range of 5 by 20 km (3.1 by 12.4 mi)"

-This is right from the wiki page.
FineStructureConstant
5 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2014
Ghost, your postings are beginning to be obnoxious. Why do you always want to be right - and prove others wrong??? Don't you know it's OK to be wrong - it's all about balance and being able to take the rough with the smooth - a bit like ol' Curiosity, right? And being wrong occasionally is actually how science progresses - you are aware of that, right?

Your anger and pedantry really don't belong here, so please either calm down, take a sip of cool water, or take your overinflated ego somewhere else.

Anyway, to be a little pedantic myself, why don't you actually READ what GSwift7 has written:

"As of last May, the test rover had driven 7.5 miles. I can't find current distance but I assume they're still driving."

TEST rover, right? That's the twin rover they have here on Earth to test things. And that's the one which has driven 7.5 miles or so. Please read stuff carefully before you splutter your indignation and rage all over the page.