Curiosity rover embarks on its extended Mars mission

Curiosity rover embarks on its extended Mars mission

Advancing as part of its two-year mission extension that commenced on Oct. 1, U. S. space agency NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is now driving toward uphill destinations.

The mobile laboratory's new destinations include a ridge that is rich in iron-oxide mineral hematite. It is around two-and-a-half kilometers ahead of the rover on lower Mount Sharp.

The aforementioned destination is one of the many that the rover will explore on lower Mount Sharp, a layered, Mount Rainier-sizes mound where the rover is trying to find evidence of water-rich environments in ancient times.

Ashwin Vasavada, a scientist at NASA's Pasadena, Calif.-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, "We continue to reach higher and younger layers on Mount Sharp. Even after four years of exploring near and on the mountain, it still has the potential to completely surprise us."

Curiosity has snapped and sent back hundreds of photos in recent weeks amid a cluster of mesas and buttes of different shapes. These photos are the latest highlights among the more than 180,000 photos that the rover has sent back to scientists on Earth since it landed on Mars in August 2012.

The U. S. space agency approved the rover's second extended mission earlier this summer on the basis of plans presented by the Curiosity team. Any further extension may be considered in the future.


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