Mars curiosity rover had to take a detour to avoid sand traps in the northeastern end of "Hidden Valley," located in the Gale crater on Mars.
As part of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, the Curiosity rover was launched from Earth on November 26, 2011. The Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012 and since then it has been collecting and investigating various aspects of the Red Planet. However, the Curiosity has also come across many obstacles since it landed on Mars and the latest hindrance is from the slick sand of the Hidden Valley.
The car-sized rover is heading for Mount Sharp, which is a 3.4-mile (5.5 kilometers) high mountain located at the center of the Gale Crater via Hidden Valley. The valley is about the size of a football field and is believed to be full of slippery sand. However, soon after entering Hidden Valley, NASA officials found the sand was too slippery for Curiosity and it had to take a detour.
"We need to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the wheels and Martian sand ripples, and Hidden Valley is not a good location for experimenting," says Jim Erickson, Curiosity Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California.
The ultimate goal of the Curiosity rover is to reach Mount Sharp and now scientists are finding an alternate route that will take the rover to its final destination.
According to a previous report, NASA scientists revealed that the rough terrain on the surface of Mars has already damaged Curiosity's wheels. Scientists did anticipate certain wear and tear on the wheels but the rover experienced higher-than-expected damage on its wheels.
NASA scientists revealed that due to the damage caused on the wheels, they were charted future destinations for the rover over comparatively smoother ground, which will reduce the amount of damage caused to wheels.
However, moving the rover over smoother surface has also delayed the time taken to reach Mount Sharp and at the same time posed another issue for scientists. NASA officials also say that while trying to assess the situation and finding an alternate route, the Curiosity passed through a surface with stones which resulted in one of the wheels cracking.
It will be a challenging task for NASA scientists to find an alternate route for the Curiosity rover.