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Curiosity captures its own shadow in photo from Mars showing the view from beneath the rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA reports damage to Curiosity wind instrument

The rover is being put through its paces ahead of its first drive on Mars today.

ONE OF THE CURIORISTY rover’s wind sensors has been damaged and is not providing data, according to the latest NASA update on its Mars research mission.

The rover landed on the Red Planet on 6 August and researchers are putting it through its paces before sending it on its first proper run which will involve the unit drilling into the Martian rock to collect samples for analysis.

NASA says that one of the rover’s two sets of REMS wind sensors is not providing data, but that the problem won’t seriously hamper the measurements it records. Curiosity deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada says that the damage could have been caused during its recent descent and landing onto Mars:

One possibility is that pebbles lofted during the landing hit the delicate circuit boards on one of the two REMS booms. We will have to be more clever about using the remaining wind sensor to get wind speed and direction.

Meanwhile, the rover has ‘wiggled’ its four corner wheels from side-to-side for the first time since landing in preparation for its first drive on Mars, which is due to happen today.

Curiosity has also begun “shooting neutrons into the ground” to test the soil for water, according to the principal investigator for this instruments on the rover, Igor Mitrofanov of Space Research Institute in Moscow.

“We measure the amount of hydrogen in the soil by observing how the neutrons are scattered, and hydrogen on Mars is an indication of water.”

Hydrogen is most likely to be found in the form of hydrated minerals close to the equator in the shallow ground of Gale Crater.

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