NASA Mars rover "Curiosity" launched Nov 26!

As I'm sure most of you know, NASA had a successful launch of the Mars Rover, Curiosity, and it is on its way to the Red Planet.  It's a bit of bright news in light of the troubled launch of the Russian probe, Phobos-Grunt, which was supposed to check out one of the moons.  (They were able to briefly contact the probe from an Australia station last week, though, and have hopes of getting it moving again.  Incidentally, Russia is now thinking that maybe they could hitch a ride with us or Europe next time.  Let's hope we'd give them good luck and not get their bad.)

Curiosity will land on August 5 or 6, 2012, and have a Martian-year-long mission, about 98 Earth weeks.  It's main purpose is the look for life or the possibility of life--either indigenous or supporting human colonization.  It has 10 instruments to study the land and the atmosphere, with four objectives (taken from the NASA press package):

The mission has four primary science objectives to meet NASA’s overall habitability assessment goal:
• Assess the biological potential of at least one target environment by determining the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds, searching for the chemical building blocks of life and identifying features that may record the actions of biologically
relevant processes.

• Characterize the geology of the rover’s field site at all appropriate spatial scales by investigating the chemical, isotopic and mineralogical composition of surface and near-surface materials and interpreting the processes that have formed rocks and soils.

• Investigate planetary processes of relevance to past habitability (including the role of water) by assessing the long timescale atmospheric evolution and determining the present state, distribution and cycling of water and carbon dioxide.
• Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons.
Curiosity will not be looking for life itself.  It's not equipped to detect biological processes or to analyze (or recognize) fossils.  (Though I imagine that if it were to photograph some, there'll be some people screaming about it at NASA/JPL!)

Curiosity will be tooling around the Gale Crater, which was chosen after looking at over 30 different sites and years of debate.  This video gives the reasons why they selected it.

Congratulations, NASA and good luck, Curiosity!

For more reading:

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment