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Waspie_Dwarf

Curiosity Checking Possible Smoother Route

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Curiosity Mars Rover Checking Possible Smoother Route

Mission Status Report

The team operating NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is considering a path across a small sand dune to reach a favorable route to science destinations.

A favorable route would skirt some terrain with sharp rocks considered more likely to poke holes in the rover's aluminum wheels.

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NASA Mars Rover's View of Possible Westward Route

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover reached the edge of a dune on Jan. 30 and photographed the valley on the other side, to aid assessment of whether to cross the dune.

Curiosity is on a southwestward traverse of many months from an area where it found evidence of ancient conditions favorable for microbial life to its long-term science destination on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp. Based on analysis of images taken from orbit by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a location dubbed "Dingo Gap" was assessed as a possible gateway to a favorable route for the next portion of the traverse.

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NASA Mars Rover's Color View of Likely Route West

The team operating NASA's Curiosity Mars rover will likely drive the rover westward over a dune and across a valley with fewer sharp rock hazards than alternative routes.

A final decision on whether to pass through this valley will ride on evaluation of a short drive planned this week toward the top of the dune that lies across "Dingo Gap." The dune is about 3 feet (1 meter) high at its center, tapered off at both sides of the gap between two low scarps. A color view assembled from images taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) on the east side of the dune shows details of the valley that the rover may traverse this month.

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