When the Curiosity drilled into the rock sediment from the Gale crater, he found minerals that can only have formed in water. Among others there was sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and phosphorous. This NASA scientists announced, proves life was possible, that MARs was once inhabitable.
Now what? The Curiosity landed on Mars just seven short months ago with a two year mission to find out if Mars was ever inhabitable. After seven short months, MISSION ACOMPLISHED. Future missions will take these results, that Mars was once habitable and now try to prove whether it was actually inhabited.
Let’s recap what led to Curiosity’s success;
There was the awe inspiring landing that followed the “Seven Minutes of Terror” – the rocket thrusters, the parachutes to slow him from 13,000 mph to 180 mph, the sky crane, all in all an incredible landing and a huge success.
Engineers & Scientists have worked nothing short of heroic hours & will hopefully now will get some deserved rest with a more normal schedule. Each day they have had to send out two sets of instructions; one early in the day and one at the end of the day. Prior to sending these instructions which took 14 minutes to be received, the same data would be sent to Curiosity’s earth-bound twin, “Scarecrow”.
TEST, TEST, SUCCESS…once landing the rover , scientists had to test his full repertoire, from his MAST Cam to his Mars Hand Lens Imager that permitted scientists here on Earth to examine rocks and soil up close and personal (able to identify features at 12.5 microns-the width of a human hair) and this lens rested at the end of a robotic arm that extended to a reach of 2.1 meters/ 7 feet with 5 joints. There is also the MARs Descent Imager which provided the landing view as well as Geological data. SAM-The Sample Analysis that he features is made up of a mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph, and a laser spectrometer. CheMin; The Chemistry & Mineralogy identifies minerals. Then there’s the ChemCam – really cool! The Laser that can be fired at Martian rocks out of Curiosity’s reach (say 25 meters) and then take in the sample and analyze it. There is an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), or DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons), also a Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). Basically Curiouslty is a lab on wheels brought to us from NASA.
What led to his rapid success was a Change in plans from cruising Mt Sharp to investigating alluvial fans (deposits of sediments visible from orbit that were thought to indicate water) led to the grand discovery and along the way a stop at “RockNest” a small dune where it took its first soil sample. Scientists were right and Curiosity scores the win.
So what next for our robotic explorer? Curiosty will spend the reminder of his time investigating areas where perhaps ancient live thrived, if it evolved on Mars.