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Why NASA's Mars Rover Has Only Moved 10 Miles In 4 Years

NASA's Curiosity rover has been investigating Mars for more than four years now. So why hasn't it even traveled 10 miles on the red planet yet? 

Well, for starters, you're probably overestimating the cart's abilities. Even though it's an extremely innovative craft, its top speed isn't even a tenth of a mile per hour. 

And that's in ideal, flat conditions. In reality, Mars is full of cliffs, craters and cracks. NASA notes unpredictable winds complicate things even more.  

Curiosity can't move that fast, and it can't move for that long. 

SEE MORE: Trump Gives NASA The Go-Ahead To Get Humans To Mars

The rover relies on solar power. But keep in mind, Mars is even farther from the sun than Earth, so the rays are less powerful. 

Curiosity only needs about the same amount of power as a light bulb to move. But the sun's rays are only strong enough to get the craft moving for four hours a day. 

The good news is a lot of Curiosity's missions haven't required much travel. 

The very first thing the rover was supposed to do was see if Mars could have ever supported life. The answer is yes, and Curiosity confirmed it years ago in an area pretty close to where it landed. 

Another key mission has simply been monitoring weather patterns and radiation to see what kind of health risks future astronauts would be put through. 

NASA's current goal is to have people orbiting Mars in the early 2030s. If, or when, we have astronauts walking on Mars' surface, we can bet they'll be moving a lot faster than Curiosity. 

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