The past several weeks have been a busy time for the Mars rover Curiosity. Events included stops at two waypoints on the way to Mount Sharp, the longest one-day drive of its journey so far and the discovery of the apparent absence of methane in the Martian atmosphere.
Curiosity, we may have a problem. Because Congress failed to pass a budget or an emergency spending bill, the federal government has been in shutdown mode since Oct. 1. This forced NASA to furlough 97 percent of its employees and cease most of its operations.
Curiosity and other missions sent to Mars have discovered evidence that Mars was a wetter planet in the past, with a thick atmosphere.
Curiosity has started its journey to Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile-high mountain rising from the center of Gale Crater.
At a location on Mars called Yellowknife Bay, NASA’s Curiosity rover last March found clay rocks with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and sulfur.
NASA says we are sending humans to Mars.
During most of April planetary orbits put the sun between Mars and Earth and cut off reliable communications with Curiosity, the NASA rolling laboratory on the Red Planet.
Curiosity is on its own for most of this month because the sun is between Earth and Mars, blocking radio signals between the planets.
It’s been a busy month for Curiosity since last month’s column, with some great news and a few problems. First, the great news.
Just over five months ago, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, landed in Gale Crater on Mars.