SEP 14, 2017 07:08 AM PDT

NASA's Curiosity Rover Begins its Climb Up Vera Rubin Ridge

A whole host of landers, orbiters, and rovers study the Martian surface day in and day out for clues about its environment and its puzzling past, but despite having so much going on to explore Mars at any given time, many unanswered questions remain.

Perhaps one of the most famous Martian missions of all is a rover named Curiosity. It’s a vehicle-sized mobile laboratory that rolls around, snaps pictures, and zaps Martian rocks with lasers to learn more about their chemical composition.

NASA's Curiosity rover is equipped to handle Mars exploration.

Image Credit: NASA

While Curiosity has roamed the Martian surface since 2012 and signs of wear and tear are beginning to show on the rover’s large aluminum wheels, NASA isn’t leaving any rock unturned. The space agency has officially assigned a new project to the persistent little explorer.

According to a public statement issued by the space agency this week, Curiosity is now ascending to the top of Vera Rubin Ridge, a location of interest that has piqued researchers’ curiosity for years.

The top of Vera Rubin Ridge is Curiosity's next target.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity has already studied the base of the ridge in detail, but this will be the first time the rover climbs to the top to investigate unexplored regions. In doing so, Curiosity will travel over one-third of a mile and climb almost 213 feet higher than its current elevation.

"We're on the climb now, driving up a route where we can access the layers we've studied from below," said Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science-team member with NASA.

"As we skirted around the base of the ridge this summer, we had the opportunity to observe the large vertical exposure of rock layers that make up the bottom part of the ridge," Fraeman, continued. "But even though steep cliffs are great for exposing the stratifications, they're not so good for driving up."

Related: Check out this rad selfie taken by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars

Among many of the features that make this ridge unique is its dense concentration of the iron oxide mineral hematite. Scientists hope that by exploring the ridge up close, they'll learn more about why the structure isn’t corroding like other Martian features do and figure out the source of the hematite.

On the other hand, it won’t be an uninterrupted drive. Curiosity will make a series pit stops throughout the climb, sampling rocks as it goes to learn more about how the rock appearance and chemical composition changes along the way

Mars orbiters have helped planetary scientists mark important regions where the rover will stop and conduct testing. Curiosity is already programmed to handle everything autonomously, so all we have to do now is sit back and wait for the data to roll in.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 26, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 26, 2018
NASA's InSight Lander Safely Touches Down on Mars
If you’ve been paying any attention to NASA lately, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the space agency’s InSight mission for Mars. NASA...
DEC 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2018
NASA's InSight Lander Captured the Sound of Martian Wind
It’s been less than two weeks since NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander touch...
DEC 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 10, 2018
Learn More About How NASA Built the Parker Solar Probe
When NASA built the Solar Parker Probe to embark on its mission to study the Sun, they knew it’d need to be built with bleeding-edge technology to ma...
JAN 16, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 16, 2019
Second Repeating Fast Radio Bursts Detected
Scientists working at Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, announced that they have detected a total of 13 fast radio bursts in July a...
JAN 22, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 22, 2019
Astronomers Probe the Disintegrating Exoplanet K2-22b for Answers
Astronomers around the globe are continuously scanning the cosmos to identify and study the unique characteristics of distant exoplanets. One of the ways t...
JAN 22, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 22, 2019
NASA Wants Astronauts to Visit the Moon Again, And Here's How
It’s been a while since NASA sent astronauts to the Moon – more than four decades, in fact. But that doesn’t mean NASA doesn’t want...
Loading Comments...