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Obstructed wheel, altered trajectory, worn out equipment ... we know about the difficulties encountered by the Curiosity robot on Mars

Obstructed wheel, altered trajectory, worn out equipment … we know about the difficulties encountered by the Curiosity robot on Mars

Jokes abound for curiosity. The NASA rover, which will continue its road trip to Mars, which began almost ten years ago, has had to face many difficulties in recent days. On April 13, Curiosity temporarily damaged one of its wheels on a rock on the Red Planet. Enough to give some cold sweat to the engineers operating the robot a few million kilometers away.

Temporarily locked wheel

On Wednesday, April 13, the Curiosity robot quietly continued its journey on the red planet when one of its six wheels got stuck in a rock. A pebble in his shoe He is not in it Very obvious to get rid of. “Although the situation on Earth can be easily resolved, it is more complicated when navigators are 254 million kilometers away.”To explain Thomas Appare, astronomer, On Twitter.

Wheel of the Curiosity rover on Mars on April 17, 2022.  (NASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS)

Fortunately, the teams in charge of piloting curiosity in California succeeded in their maneuver to free the robot from this awkward pose. “If the rover is not concerned with health and function, it reduces our descent”Planetary scientist Mark Salvador reports On the NASA website (In English).

A detour due to rocks

This is not the first time Curiosity has changed its course. In early April, NASA teams Decided to take a detour After seeing the “alligator” rocks on their way. No, this is not a trace of animal life on Mars, but “Stones sharpened by wind” At speed Crocodile scales, According to NASA. An alternative route to avoid these pebbles was eventually discovered while continuing to explore Mount Sharp in the center of the Gale Greater, reports Numeroma.

Rocks "Crocodile" On Mars, March 15, 2022. (NASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS)

More and more worn out equipment

These inconveniences are not really surprising to NASA. I have to say that Curiosity has already been out of technical control for a few years. Until 2017, the American Space Agency Had warned In the position of his rover. Two of its aluminum wheels Diameter and about 50 cm The cramps fitted after several trips on the sharp rocks were already considerably damaged. In early 2022, new photos confirmed the robot’s deplorable condition.

Wheel of the Curiosity rover on Mars on January 27, 2022.  (NASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS)

In the course of the discoveries, and after traveling a few kilometers, the terrain through which Curiosity crossed the Gale Gorge became more dangerous than expected. “You have to imagine that it has not rained for millions of years. The rocks are carved by the wind. (…) If they were on earth, you should not walk on them, they could cut your shoes!” William Robin, a researcher at the Astronomical and Planetary Research Institute, warns Numeroma. In the face of this, humans took daily control of the path of Curiosity. This is to prevent the automatic pilot from flying into sharp areas … Try to continue this Mars mission until the planned mission in 2026 is completed.

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