Curiosity resumes Martian mountain climb as Nasa team runs rover from home

Amid coronavirus pandemic, scientists at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are executing commands from their living rooms to run a rover over 116 million km away, on Mars

The Curiosity rover is currently exploring Mount Sharp on the floor of the Gale Crater on Mars. (Source: NASA)

The Curiosity rover has resumed the next leg of its trip on Mars, with scientists operating it and monitoring its movement remotely from their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said that the rover would continue through the summer across roughly a mile of terrain to ascend to the next section of a 3-mile-tall (5 km) Martian mountain that it has been exploring since 2014.

The rover is currently exploring Mount Sharp on the floor of the Gale Crater on the distant planet, looking for conditions that might have supported ancient microbial life. Nasa is studying sedimentary layers in the crater which indicate how Mars might have changed from being more Earth-like – with lakes, streams, and a thicker atmosphere – to the nearly airless freezing desert it is today.

The agency is planning to reach the "sulfate-bearing unit" of the mountain by early September. According to researchers, sulfates, like Gypsum and Epsom salts, usually form around water as it evaporates, and they are yet another clue to how the climate and prospects for life could have changed nearly 3 billion years ago.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this view from "Greenheugh Pediment" on its Martian day. (Source: NASA)

Deploying mission control to living rooms