The world's first mini-satellites to venture into deep space - created to monitor NASA'sInSightMarslander - have successfully oriented themselves towards the red planet, according to the U.S. space agency.
The new results of the Rover's work on Mars will be released in the journal Science tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET, which is also when NASA will air a live discussion of those findings.
NASA is promising a "chat" with four officials involved in the project: Paul Mahaffy, a division director at the Goddard Space Flight Center; Jen Eigenbrode, a researcher at the center; Chris Webster, a fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Ashwin Vasavada, a scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory project which oversees Curiosity.
The key technology for Curiosity's soil sampling is its robotic arm, specifically its robotic hand, which is a complex assembly of sensors, drilling apparatus, and a system for accepting, grading, and conveying soil and rock powder to the laboratories located inside the body of the rover.
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"Has NASA found life on Mars?"
Speculation is now rife as to what NASA could have found on Mars, with many amateur astronomers hopeful that evidence of extraterrestrial life has finally been uncovered.
"This was no small feat".
This week, those rock samples were successfully delivered to and processed by the rover's mineralogy lab. On May 20, the rover took the first rock sample since October 2016. "It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off", said Jim Erickson, MSL project manager. For the first four years, the nuclear-powered rover operated longer and better than expected, but in December 2016, a problem occurred. Later this week, scientists hope to have Curiosity deliver rock samples to its chemistry lab. It's quite remarkable to have a moment like this, five years into the mission.
"On Mars, we have to try and estimate visually whether this is working, just by looking at images of how much powder falls out", John Michael Moorokian, the engineer who led the development of the new sample delivery method, said in a statement. "It means we can resume studying Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing, with our full range of scientific tools".