In September 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover mission made history when it landed on Mars. The Curiosity rover mission was the first to be sent to land beside another planet. Its mission was to determine if Mars ever had the right environmental conditions for life to exist.
The Mars Science Laboratory, often referred to as Curiosity (short for “CURIOSITY”), is one of NASA’s flagship missions to Mars. For all of you who don’t know when curiosity launched, it began its journey on November 26, 2011; it landed on Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT on August 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT).
Originally named the Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL for short, it was renamed after NASA’s Spirit rover diverted attention away from NASA’s planned designator for a mission to search for subsurface water ice deposits at mid-latitudes (91 degrees N–56 degrees S) of Mars.
This article, allows us to answer some questions about the curiosity rover mission as well as some curiosity rover facts.
Mars: A Brief Overview Of Our Red Planet
Mars is a cold, dry, and dusty planet today, with only about as much water as there is in Earth’s driest deserts. But Mars was once warmer and wetter, with extensive river channels, lakes, and deltas, like those in the desert southwest of the United States. Evidence of the changing conditions through time is recorded in occasional outcrops along the area’s craggy cliffs. By drilling into these rocks, scientists may determine that Mars was once warm enough to support life, which will be one of the most important curiosity rover discoveries.
What The Curiosity Rover Mission Is All About?
Source: Wikipedia | Curiosity Rover
NASA has named a new rover to explore Mars, with several important goals. In August 2012, Curiosity landed on Mars to investigate if the planet was ever capable of supporting microbial life. The lander included the core samples-gatherer drill, scooping hardware, and other analysis techniques. These studies will help scientists understand what happened to the Martian environment over time and how climate change affected Mars’ ability to support life.
- Curiosity Surveying The Gale Crater
The landing site is particularly well-suited to the curiosity rover mission of characterising the geology of Gale Crater and searching for signs of an environment capable of supporting life. One of Curiosity’s most promising targets for its first drive is a site called Glenelg, where three different types of rock intersect in an attractive and accessible way.
Throughout the two-year-long Curiosity rover mission, its position will be adjusted to maximise solar energy for better lighting its batteries. Radar will survey the surrounding landscape, and high-resolution cameras will take colour images of interesting sites nearby. To help us learn more about whether or not Mars has ever been hospitable to life in the past, Curiosity is collecting samples of air, soil, and rock for further analysis back on Earth.
- Curiosity For Organic Matter
Curiosity’s advanced scientific instruments will help it analyse soils and rocks to determine their composition and history. Most of Curiosity’s studies will be conducted at Glenelg’s rock outcrop. The Curiosity rover mission will carry out several analyses during this expedition, each with a particular focus.
By studying the effects of wind, water, and changes in temperature on the structure and chemistry of the rocks, Curiosity can reconstruct how the features at Glenelg formed. It can also use the data to predict where it should go next.
Curiosity rover instruments are designed to detect the chemical building blocks of life — carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur. A complex organic molecule containing all six elements in a specific arrangement is called “organic matter.” The presence of organic matter does not prove that life existed on Mars, but it is needed to sustain life.
- Landing Part Of Curiosity
Very few robotic missions are capable of landing with the precision that Curiosity has. It’s easy to forget just how complicated and downright intimidating landing a spacecraft on another planet is, but the Curiosity rover mission has overcome various engineering challenges to touch down safely on its intended target eventually.
For most space exploration probes, landing is the most difficult part of the mission. But Curiosity’s entry, descent, and landing (EDL) were among the smoothest ever undertaken by NASA. The rover came in at a blazing speed of 13,000 miles per hour (21,000 km/hour) compared to 2,000 miles per hour for previous Mars rovers.
As it was entering the Martian atmosphere, a giant supersonic parachute deployed to slow down its descent before three separate rockets fired to bring Curiosity on a pinpoint landing within Gale Crater—a region that may have been capable of supporting microbial life billions of years ago.
The Curiosity landing was riddled with uncertainties surrounding the final stage of the descent, but each step went along more or less as planned. ESA and NASA were monitoring data constantly for any signs of problems, and there were plenty of contingency plans in case something went wrong.
- Curiosity Rover Discoveries
Source: Space.com | Space rover
Curiosity’s most current findings definitively prove that Mars indeed has the right chemistry to support living microbes, but even more significant is the fact that this discovery confirms that Mars has changed over a long period This gives further proof to the theory that planets in our solar system may not stay in their present states forever, and instead they will change and evolve.
The researchers have also stated that Curiosity rover discoveries support the idea that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes, but further research is required. This is good news for those who want to know whether aliens exist, assuming we could find any fossil evidence.
What Makes Curiosity Different From Other Mars Exploration Projects?
The Curiosity rover mission is completing a process that began more than half a century before the Mars Science Laboratory was even launched. The first Martian meteorite was discovered in 1877, and by 1976 NASA was flying successful missions to the red planet with Viking 1.
Though it could not send back data like modern rovers, it accomplished its primary scientific objectives and paved the way for future missions. The Mars Exploration Rover Missions that followed were more successful but also had their share of media coverage. Now, Curiosity stands to widen our understanding of Mars in ways that would have been inconceivable thirty years ago—or even ten years ago, when Pathfinder landed on Mars.
Curiosity will do its job better thanks to its advanced instruments than Spirit and Opportunity. But whether or not it detects life or signs of it on Mars is beside the point. Without MSL, we wouldn’t have a mission as amazing and renowned as Curiosity, which has already answered many questions. Curiosity has already revolutionised what humans know about Mars.
Want to know some interesting curiosity rover facts?
- The Martian Curiosity rover has another interesting name which goes by the technical term; The Mars Science Laboratory.
- The Curiosity rover is working overtime as it has already exceeded its operational lifespan, which was only 687 Earth days.
- During its visit to the red planet, the Curiosity rover captured a panorama of a size of 1.8 billion-pixel.
Amidst the celebrations over Curiosity’s successful landing, it’s important to remember that space exploration is inherently risky. Although we can’t discount the odds of success when humans put themselves under certain risks, we’ve been down this road before and came out on top.
Ultimately, the Curiosity rover mission will help scientists better understand the planet closest to home, and the mission’s discoveries will likely continue well beyond 2016. These findings will impact everything from future human Martian exploration to our own planet’s development. Stay tuned with our Entropy blogging channel if you also have a thing about space explorations and universal science.
Scientists at NASA say the curiosity rover last words effectively translated to “My battery is low, and it’s getting dark.” They predicted that it stopped moving sometime around the night during the transmission. So, is the curiosity rover dead? Yes, after an astonishing 14 years of driving around the surface of Mars, the rover went silent.
Questions such as ‘when was curiosity launched’ and ‘is curiosity still on mars’ have been amongst the most searched on Google when it comes to this mission, so hopefully this article helped answer them.