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Drill Jam Puts NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover on Hiatus

Dec 08, 2016 04:41 AM EST
Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Windjana' Drilling Site
NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover is on a hiatus since its drilling mechanism is suffering from some technical difficulty.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover was launched in 2011 and reached the red planet by August of 2012. Since then, it has beamed back unprecedented data about Mars but not without glitches. Currently, the rover's drill is experiencing a technical problem believed to have jammed and has caused parts of the rover to stop working.

Curiosity is on a hiatus after controllers on Earth figured out that its drilling mechanism is jammed. The arm, that is about 7 foot long used for drilling and collecting samples are currently not working as it should be. Due to this technical problem, Curiosity's drilling operation was delayed. The problem was determined after the rover failed to follow a command when the mechanism that pushes the drill outward did not function.

"We are in the process of defining a set of diagnostic tests to carefully assess the drill feed mechanism. We are using our test rover here on Earth to try out these tests before we run them on Mars," Curiosity deputy project manager Steven Lee from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said in a statement. "To be cautious, until we run the tests on Curiosity, we want to restrict any dynamic changes that could affect the diagnosis. That means not moving the arm and not driving, which could shake it," Lee added.

However, the other mechanisms of NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover seem to be functioning accordingly, thus the rover is not in a 'safe mode' despite the drill jam, according to It is currently working on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp using its other scientific instruments such as cameras, weather gears and spectrometer on board.

Since 2012, the rover had already managed to drove around the surface of mars for a distance of 933 miles (15.01 kilometers). This paved the way for the rover to capture stunning images and discover interesting landscapes on the surface of the red planet including the Murray Buttes and canyon-like rock formations.

But engineers are working hard to fix the drill jam problem that caused the NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover hiatus since the rover is moving to higher and younger layer of soil and rock that will provide a different set of findings on the red planet. The rocks hold the key to understanding ancient conditions and climate changes throughout the years on Mars.


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