For the last six months NASA’s Curiosity rover has been comfortably parked in a small depression on the surface of Mars. As the rover has set in the small depression, it has been drilling rocks and analyzing their composition. NASA is now preparing to get Curiosity moving again and heading towards the big mountain in the middle of Gail Crater, which is the rover’s main destination.
To reach that major point of exploration, Curiosity will have to cruise a distance of about 8 km to Mount Sharp. Mount Sharp is Curiosity’s primary objective where NASA hopes to learn a significant amount about the environmental history of Mars. NASA hasn’t decided exactly when it will command Curiosity the move out.
So far, NASA has only said that Curiosity will begin the 8 km drive in the “next few weeks.” NASA scientists and engineers also point out that since this is an exploration mission Curiosity will likely stop again on its drive to Mount Sharp if scientifically interesting areas of discovered. The project manager for Curiosity, Jim Erickson, noted that a fast-pace for Curiosity to make the drive to Mount Sharp would be somewhere between 10 months and a year.