NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has been upgraded with software update after a pause and NASA engineers said the rover is back to work drilling the Martian crystal-rick rock “Mojave” at Gale Crater.
The rock drilling will help find salt deposits left on the Mars surface after its lakes drained millions of years ago, providng clue to the nature water sources and the remnants of any organism in the soil. Curiosity began to drill the rocky structure on Mars early this month.
Earlier, the rover had explored the lower regions of Mount Sharp known as Aeolis Mons and in December finished the task of finding carbon-containing compounds and spurts of methane gas in Gale.
NASA team has also checked wear and tear on the rover’s wheels and Curiosity is sending back information after software upgrade, said the US space agency.
“Curiosity is now operating on version 11 of its flight software,” said Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, project manager for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Project, which operates Curiosity.
This is the third upgrade version since Curiosity’s landing on Mars 16 months ago and the switch from version 10 took about a week. While the earlier switch to version 11 resulted in an unintended reboot on Nov. 7 and a return to version 10, the latest transition went off smoothly, said the team.
The upgrades allows advanced capabilities for using the Curiosity’s robotic arm while the vehicle is on slopes and improves flexibility for storing information overnight to use in resuming autonomous driving on a second day, said engineers.
An upcoming activity will be driving to a relatively smooth patch of ground to take a set of images of Curiosity’s aluminum wheels, using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the rover’s arm.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.