The next Mars rover Curiosity is on a target for landing on the Red Planet.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will arrive on the planet on August 6 says NASA’s Dave Lavery. ” “Everything looks healthy,” he says, about the spacecraft launched last year.
Improvement in targeting of the rover’s landing site may shave off as much as four months of surface driving time for the nuclear-powered rover once it lands and starts heading for a nearby mountain to begin its investigations, says Pete Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The mission, designed for one Martian year, will explore the mountain, Mount Sharp or “Aeolis Mons”, at the center of Gale Crater on Mars, looking for evidence of past habitats suitable for microbial life on the Red Planet. The new, smaller landing site is only 4 miles wide by 12 miles across.
The team is continuing to investigate teflon contamination worries (a $2 million effort) dogging the drill aboard the rover, Theisinger says, and he is confident that Curiosity will be able to complete its science goals.
Mission scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology described “a number of different ways” to address the contamination problem with the drill — ranging from altering its operations to recreating conditions in a lab on Earth to correct for any problems — and its impact on sampling results, in a news briefing addressing the status of the spacecraft on Monday.