Have you heard about what NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, has been doing lately? Just to review, Curiosity is the rover that contains NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, and its main job is to conduct various experiments in order to see if life is, or has been, possible on Mars. In the short time it has been there, Curiosity has stumbled upon some incredible findings while shedding new light on previous discoveries!
Since first landing on the floor of Mars’ Gale Crater on August 6, 2012, Curiosity has been busy investigating the Red Planet. The rover is essentially a portable laboratory, equipped with different types of technology so it can share all of its findings with us.
A major component of this innovative technology is Curiosity’s imaging devices, which allows it to send detailed photographs of Mars back to us. One of these imaging devices is the Mast Camera, which has been used to take 360-degree panorama images of the area surrounding Curiosity’s location. In the ongoing search for life on Mars, Curiosity has used its cameras to send amazing images to Earth, particularly of Mars’ landscape.
According to MSNBC, Scientists have found that like Earth, Mars’ surface has been shaped by plate tectonics. Until recently, it was believed that only Earth’s crust was affected by this phenomenon. This discovery is crucial to our understanding of Mars’ ability to support life as UCLA geologist An Lin believes plate tectonics play a major role in replenishing a planet’s nutrients that living organisms need to survive.
Another device is the Navigation Camera, which searches the sky for clouds. Curiosity also utilizes the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument (SAM), which studies samples of Mars’ atmosphere. These instruments aid in our understanding of Mars’ potential for life as an inhospitable atmosphere would eliminate any life forms. According to Yahoo! News, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory member Paul Haynes confirmed the existence of carbon dioxide snow clouds in Mars’ atmosphere. While dry ice snowflakes fall from Mars’ atmosphere, similarities have been found between Earth’s and Mars’ snow clouds, suggesting further similarities between the planets’ abilities to support life.
Luckily, since Curiosity landed on Mars, there have not been many technical or mechanical issues. It has continued to rove around Mars, observing the various characteristics of the Red Planet. Curiosity is exploring new frontiers and it is exciting to receive all of the information it has to offer!