NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Is Back On The Job

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover is back on the job. The rover’s robotic arm began functioning again, after a short circuit on February 27 prompted scientists to shut down operations while they investigated its causes. The short circuit occurred while using a percussive drill to extract rock samples. On Wednesday March 11, Curiosity used the arm to sieve and retrieve rock samples and to deliver them to instruments on board.

The rock sample from “Telegraph Peak” will be analyzed by the Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument inside the rover. The Rover’s current location is at the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on Mount Sharp. Following successful collection of the sample, Curiosity will be moving in a few days, higher up and southwestwards on Mount Sharp through a valley known as “Artists’ Drive”.

The Curiosity Mars Rover landed on Mars in August 2012 at the edge of the Gale Crater to begin a 23-month mission of exploring the Martian environment and geology. The rover carries the most advanced instruments ever sent to Mars, and has an assignment to seek clues for the existence of microbial life on Mars in times past.

The first sample of rock provided by Curiosity Mars Rover, from the Yellowknife Bay area close to the landing site, provided evidence that fulfilled the scientific mission. It found the key elemental building blocks for the presence of microbial life and a source of chemical energy. The rover is now looking at the evolution of the Martian environment from wetter to drier conditions.

According to NASA, Curiosity’s top five scientific discoveries so far have been: evidence that the ancient Martian environment was conducive to microbial life, finding traces of an ancient stream bed, discovering high levels of radiation that are harmful to humans, noting the lack of methane in the atmosphere (this is significant because living creatures produce methane), and the diversity of environments near the landing site.

Curiosity Mars Rover will keep rolling along, “following the water” to discover past life on Mars and exploring Martian geology and environment to pave the way for human exploration. Updates on Curiosity and her sister Opportunity are posted on the mission’s Facebook page. Curiosity also makes occasional appearances on NASA TV.