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Curiosity Update #5
Since NASA first reported Curiosity's successful landing on Mars at the beginning of August news about the rover has been appropriately non-stop. Curiosity is one of NASA’s landmark babies and every little thing it does is remarkable.
Each month we will update you with a quick round-up of Curiosity’s activities on the Red Planet.
Early last month Curiosity left the outcrop near “Point Lake” to begin its journey to Yellowknife Bay: the destination where the rover will test its rock-powdering drill.
On Monday, December 10th Curiosity was forced to end that day’s drive approximately 30 percent shorter than planned when it noticed a small difference between two calculations of its tilt or how it was situated on the ground. JPL said the rover was not in danger but the calculation discrepancy was enough for the software to stop the drive as a precaution because it would be really embarrassing for NASA if one of their rovers accidentally drove itself off a cliff.
"The rover is traversing across terrain different from where it has driven earlier, and responding differently," said Rick Welch, the mission manager at JPL, "We're making progress, though we're still in the learning phase with this rover, going a little slower on this terrain than we might wish we could."
Curiosity spent the Christmas holiday, or soliday/holisols -the rover wasn’t sure which portmanteau sounded better- at a martian location dubbed “Grandma’s House.”
Before it reached “Grandma’s House” the Curiosity team preloaded the rover with eleven activities that would allow majority of the team to take a holiday break and work out any bugs with a preload. NASA could lose communication with Curiosity in April during an anticipated solar conjunction.
Over the Earth weekend Curiosity continued to poke around Yellowknife Bay taking images of the terrain to see where it should use the hammering drill. Once it decided on a target the powdered samples from the interior of rocks will be taken for analysis by instruments inside the rover.
“We had no surprises over the holidays," said the mission's project manager Richard Cook at JPL. "Now, Curiosity is back on the move. The area the rover is in looks good for our first drilling target."
In other Martian news, earlier this week NASA reported that extensive analysis was complete on a small meteorite that was found in the Sahara Desert in 2011.
Researchers say the meteorite officially known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034 and nicknamed "Black Beauty" could be the first recovered martian rock that contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins.
It weighs approximately 11 ounces and the research team determined the rock is a “new class” of meteorite and formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars called the Amazonian.
"The age of NWA 7034 is important because it is significantly older than most other Martian meteorites," said Mitch Schulte, the program scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA "We now have insight into a piece of Mars' history at a critical time in its evolution."
Follow Curiosity on Twitter @MarsCuriosity for all the latest news from Mars.
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.