It has been quite a while since our last update concerning the Mars rover, but on Wednesday, NASA/JPL hosted a teleconference to get us caught up with what the Curiosity team has accomplished, and what the next steps are in the coming weeks and months.
First up, Mars Science Lab (MSL) sampling activity lead Joe Melko discussed the progress of the drilling campaign. Earlier this year, Curiosity successfully drilled into its first Martian rock (dubbed "John Klein"), revealing more about the history of the surface of Mars. Last month, the rover drilled into a second rock (named "Cumberland") even more efficiently than it did in its previous rock-drilling effort, with the experience of the first drilling under its belt.
Next, the team turned to the immediate future: further investigation of areas surrounding Glenelg, a location in the Gale Crater near the rover's landing site, including two outcrops known as "Shaler" and "Point Lake."
Joy Crisp, MSL deputy project scientist, stated that "Shaler might be a river deposit. Point Lake might be volcanic or sedimentary. A closer look at them could give us better understanding of how the rocks we sampled with the drill fit into the history of how the environment changed."
Of course, the team saved the most exciting news for last. In the coming weeks, the rover will plot its course to Mount Sharp, the intended destination for the mission. Jim Erickson, MSL project manager, made sure to clarify that this "is a mission of exploration, so just because our end goal is Mount Sharp doesn't mean we're not going to investigate interesting features along the way."
There's still a lot of exploring to be done, but the Curiosity rover appears to be progressing as smoothly as the team could have hoped. We'll be sure to check back in soon.
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