Zee Media Bureau/Liji Varghese
New Delhi: NASA`s Curiosity Mars rover will likely drive westward over a sand dune and across a valley with fewer sharp rock hazards than alternative routes.
The rover reached the edge of a dune which is about 3 feet (1 meter) high on January 30 and photographed the valley on the other side. A colour view assembled from images taken by Curiosity`s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on the east side of the dune shows details of the valley.
The team of engineers who analysed the image believe the path ahead between two scarps dubbed "Dingo Gap" could be a possible gateway to a favourable route for the next portion of the traverse.
However, after the Spirit rover was lost in a sand trap in 2009 and Opportunity being stuck for several weeks in a deep dirt pile later dubbed "Purgatory Dune", NASA is taking no risks with Curiosity. The metal tyres of the rover has already accumulated an increasing amount of wear and tear over the last few months. Getting through Dingo Gap would allow the rover to access smoother ground.
The team operating the rover will take the final decision if they are to pass through this valley after evaluation of a short drive planned this week toward the top of the dune.
The Curiosity rover landed inside Mars` huge Gale Crater in August 2012. Mission scientists have already found solid evidence of ancient conditions favourable for microbial life near Curiosity`s landing site called Yellowknife Bay.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS