With the lander finally making its way into orbit around Mars, the future of this particular lander seems bright.
But, with so many new technologies being used to land on the red planet, there are some questions as to whether the rover will be able to perform its mission in a timely manner.
In the case of this year’s Curiosity rover, the answers could come from an intriguing new feature that could potentially prove to be the most significant in its mission.
In its landing sequence, the landers robotic arm and its robotic landing legs touched down on the surface of the Red Planet, before being propelled off by a parachute.
As the parachute opened, the rover’s arms and legs were lifted out of the air, and its arm was then dragged across the surface.
It’s an impressive demonstration of engineering prowess, and has attracted many scientists to the idea of using robotic landing techniques to land spacecraft.
While the landing sequences are impressive, the fact that they can be performed on Mars has never been a real problem, says David Griswold, a space physicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
And that’s because the landable structure on the Red Sea, and the large volume of water required to support its gravity, means that such landings are easy to pull off.
The rover that landed on Mars in 2011 had to overcome a lot of technical hurdles, and even though it did make it to the surface in one piece, the mission itself wasn’t quite as impressive as the rover that took the first landings in 2000, Griswell told ABC News.
But the concept of a rover that could use a parachute and move on to the next location, without having to re-attach the arm or legs to the robotic arm, is exciting, he said.
“It’s like if NASA had designed a rover to fly around the moon and the moon landings never happened, what the rover could do in one year on Mars would be pretty cool.”NASA has yet to land a lander on Mars, but it’s believed that the Curiosity rover could make the trip at a fraction of the cost of a similar mission.
While it will cost the agency about $10 billion to send the land-based rover, Grisswold said, it could cost more than $10 million to send a land rover on a similar route.
While this is a bit of a departure from previous NASA missions, it will still be a good bet for the agency to make it, he says.
If they can land a rover on Mars with a parachute, they will be the first in the world to do so.
This article was originally published on Space.com.