Curiosity on Mars

Ever wonder if there is life in the “outside world”? Many people imagine there be to be life on Mars. Mars is the fourth planet to orbit the Sun and is considered a territorial planet. Researchers believe that Mars has characteristics like Earth and that’s why it’s believed that there can be life on Mars. Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) designed a rover name Curiosity to explore in detail Mars soils. This mission will take up to roughly 23 months to explore the red planet.

Scientists believe that Mars’s interior consists of a crust, core, and mantle such as the Earths.  They don’t know the size of these components because no aircraft has ever brought instruments to be able to study Mar’s interior. The only real data that scientists have about Mars’s structure are its mass, size, and the structure of its gravitational field (“Nine planets,” 2011).

Since Mars has no magnetic field, Scientists believe that the core is solid.  Because Mars is so much smaller than Earth, it must’ve cooled quickly after formation, and the crust thickened, creating one solid piece and eliminating any chance of plate tectonics. However, Mars’s surface is more like the Earths surface than any other planet in the solar system.  Mars’s temperature doesn’t get much cooler than the temperature of Antarctica. The surface of Mars would be a very harsh place for human beings (“Nine planets,” 2011).

Curiosity Rover was built to conclude if there is or was life in Mars. The mission of this project is to determine Mars “habitability”. It was launched on November 26 2011 at 7:02 a.m. and landing on August 5 2012 at 10:32 p.m. (Limonadi, 2012). Curiosity was designed to take sharp images of its findings on the planet.

The rover life’s span is one full Martian year, which is equivalent to 687 earth days. In able to last this long on the planet the rover carries a “radioisotope power system” which generates its own heat producing electricity. This is mission is bound to be more successful than the previous mission because NASA as used methods from previous missions pushing the boundaries on this one.

Curiosity goals are to:

  • “Determine whether life ever arose on Mars”
  • “Characterized the climate of Mars”
  • “Characterized the geology of Mars”
  • “Prepare for Human exploration”

In able to accomplish these goals the rover is equipped with cameras, spectrometers, radiation detectors, environmental sensors, and atmospheric sensors (Limonadi, 2012). In preparation for this mission the MSL had to run test of the rover, pick the launch site and landing site. The rover was built in the laboratory of Pasadena, California and then it was transferred to Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was launched from Florida and it landed on the Gale crater on Mars.

Gale crater was created after a meteor impacted Mars about 3 billion years ago. This site was chosen as the landing site because over the past years it has shown signs of water and water is to be the key ingredient to life. The crater holds minerals called clays and sulfates and these minerals are a byproduct of water. Curiosity will examine the rocks to determine if “microbes” exist on the red planet.

Microbes are a form of life, which is known to be bacteria. They are smaller than blood cells and can be found on land, ocean and the human skin. Microbes are important because they play an important role on Earths ecosystem. The bacterium that lives in the ocean produces half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Also microbes are found to be the oldest form of life. They can be found anywhere, in soils, air, and water and even in our digestive system (Microbes.org). So finding microbes on Mars conclude that there once or still is life on Mars.

Curiosity is much in similar to Spirit and Opportunity two previous rovers that landed on Mars in 2003. Just like previous rovers Curiosity is equipped with cameras to capture sharp images to send back to Earth. Also the cameras help the team to direct the rover to where they want to keep exploring. Is a six-wheel drive just like the previous rovers, but unlike the previous rovers, Curiosity is equipped to gather up soil and rocks to be tested onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments (Tony Greicius, 2012). Also the rover was built to drive over 65 centimeters high and can last up to 660 feet per day traveling on Mars territory.

The MSL team records day by day all of Curiosity encounters and investigations. On September 27,2012 Curiosity captured images of rocks leading it to believe that there was once a flow of water on that area. After examining the rocks and soils, scientist concluded that the speed of the water was 3 feet per second. This site of this encounter was between the north rim of Gales Crater and the base of Mountain Sharp, which is a mountain that is located inside of Gales Crater. This investigation is important because is concluding that in Gales Crater there is potential of life. During Curiosity two year time period on Mars, scientist want to continue exploring Gales Crater because the conditions on the crater are ideal for microbial life.

Compared to previous rovers, Curiosity is the first to scoop up soil. The soil that was investigated was found on the “Rocknest” which is located on a flat surface on Gales Crater. The destination is miles away from Curiosity previous investigation in the Mountain Sharp. It was concluded that the soil contained water, sulfur and chlorine-containing substances (Viotti & Viotti).

In conclusion, Curiosity has become an experiment that will help the MSL team concluded the mysteries of Mars and its questions about life on the red planet. All of Curiosity gatherings and encounters is just one step closer to what may be Mars future. This is just the beginning of Curiosity and the end of the wonderings about life on Mars.

 

 

 

 

Reference

 

1. Tony Greicius. (2012, 11 Au). Nasa. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

 

2. Viotti, M., & Viotti, M. (n.d.). Nasa.gov. Retrieved from

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

(Viotti & Viotti)

 

3. (2012). Retrieved from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website:  http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/482645main_MSL Fact Sheet.pdf

 

4. http://microbes.org

 

5. Limonadi, D. (2012). Rover gets set to scoop. [0]. Retrieved from http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

 

6. Nine planets. (2011, Nov 09). Retrieved from

http://nineplane

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