Mars rover update: Curiosity banged up, takes its first steps

[Credit: NASA]

Since landing on Mars earlier this month, the Curiosity rover has captured the hearts of geeks the world over. And for good reason: It really is a landmark mission for NASA, with a lot of goings-on. Here's a quick wrap-up of what Curiosity has been up to in the last few days.

Rover takes a hit, has a damaged wind sensor

According to the BBC, NASA scientists discovered that Curiosity’s wind sensor—a small instrument Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS)—has been damaged. Fortunately for NASA, not only is the damaged wind sensor only a minor issue, but the damage sustained won't prevent the rover from taking wind readings; it'll only degrade the measurements.

In other words, this is a misstep, not a catastrophe.

The mission team is a little puzzled as to what exactly caused the problem in the first place, which resulted in the severing of the circuitry within the sensor. NASA's current line of thought is that the accident may have occurred when “grit thrown on to the rover by the descent crane's exhaust plume cut the small wires,” according to the BBC.

In the meantime, NASA's Javier Gomez-Elvira and his team says that it's working to get the sensor up and running as best they can. Curiosity’s deputy project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada, followed up on the assessment by assuring reporters that the team will be able to work around the REMS issue.

Curiosity's first steps (sort of)

Thankfully, the rover is still in great condition overall: As Gizmodo points out, Curiosity left its tracks on the surface of Mars for the first time since it landed. The rover moved “about 20 feet from its landing site,” according to Gizmodo. The site has been named Bradbury Landing as a homage to Ray Bradbury’s classic short story collection, The Martian Chronicles. Fortunately, no perturbed Martians have found Curiosity to be much of a threat…yet.

Landing on Mars: A rover's perspective

Finally, although Curiosity's landing may seem like old news, YouTube user dlfitch uploaded a “full-resolution version of the NASA Curiosity rover descent to Mars” out of photos snapped from the rover's point of view. At the beginning of the 49-second video, you can see the heat shield hurtling towards the surface of the Red Planet. Enjoy—this is likely the closest you will ever get to setting foot on Mars.

The fascination with the Curiosity rover is going to continue for months to come, so we’ll keep you updated on any more news as it comes in.

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