NASA Introduces Mars Rover "Curiosity," Debates Its Martian Landing Site
July 5, 2011 11:23 AM
comment(s) - last by
Mars rover Curiosity
Curiosity is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 25, 2011, and will land on Mars in August 2012. The decision regarding its landing site is expected to be made this month
retiring Mars rover
, NASA is introducing a new Mars probe called
. While the rover is expected to launch later this year, one critical question remains unanswered: where will it land?
is a $2.5 billion, nuclear-powered machine that is the size of a Mini Cooper, and is four times as heavy as
contains a laser that can vaporize rocks at seven meters, a percussive drill, a large robot arm and a weather station. In addition, it has 4.8kg of plutonium-238.
main mission on Mars is to find organic compounds as a "telltale sign" that life have existed on Mars. The problem is that scientist's
must decide on a landing area
that will most likely contain such evidence.
So far, scientist's have narrowed the choices down to four options: Eberswalde Crater, Mawrth Vallis, Gale Crater and Holden Crater.
"Each site has things that make it good and things that make it not quite so good," said planetary scientist Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It's kind of hard to select because it boils down to which kind of science is important to you, and that's almost personal."
Eberswalde Crater contains a delta, which is believed to be a buildup of sediment left by flowing water. This could be advantageous in finding preserved organics and biosignatures. However, these deposits could be just clay-dusted rocks, and if that's the case, the entire mission would be a waste of time. But Golombek notes that this particular crater has the highest chance of finding organics.
Mawrth Vallis has exposed valley walls that are almost as old as the planet at 3.7 billion years old. These walls contain a lot of Martian history, and are stacked hundreds of meters thick with exposed clays called phyllosilicates, which form in the
presence of water
, as well as sedimentary rocks. But the problem with this landing area is that scientist's do not know how it formed, and that the water may have been to acidic to support life.
Gale Crater features a mound of debris that is 3 miles above the crater floor, and contains layered deposits of sulfates and clays. This site is particularly interesting because its the only one that has both materials (sulfates and clays). But again, scientist's don't know how it formed.
Holden Crater is a 93-mile wide crater with gullies, which "tail off" into deposits that were covered in water at one time. In addition, the crater has many ancient rocks called breccia, which have fallen, broken and cemented together by landslides, meteor impact or floods.
While the landing site is still undecided, what scientist's do know is that the rover will land within a 12.4-by-15.5 mile targeted area, which is a very precise touchdown that could not be accomplished before, hence, certain sites couldn't be accomplished before.
will be able to achieve what other rovers couldn't between its precise landing technique and the use of 10 science instruments that will allow it to detect any organics present.
is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 25, 2011, and will
land on Mars
in August 2012. The decision regarding its landing site is expected to be made this month.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Life on Mars
7/5/2011 6:26:15 PM
The first two pics on this page of the link I gave are of NASA sterilizing the Viking landers. As one of the main purposes of the Viking missions was to run an experiment to detect signs of microbial life, failing to sterilize would've defeated the purpose of the mission.
"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs
NASA Bids Farewell to Mars Rover "Spirit"
May 25, 2011, 12:50 PM
NASA Administrator Announces Mars Mission; Stresses Importance of ISS
April 8, 2011, 7:30 AM
Phoenix Lander Discovers Mars' History of Water
September 13, 2010, 8:16 AM
Star Wars Spinoff Film "Rogue One", Theme Park Attractions Announced
August 17, 2015, 12:20 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Researchers Hope to Find "Exotic" Lifeforms Inside Crater of Dinosaur Killing Meteor
April 14, 2015, 8:47 PM
Mathematician's Sociological Formulation May Explain the "Hipster Paradox"
April 14, 2015, 1:13 PM
Most Popular Articles
Why the U.S. Won't be Able to Ban Google's New Huawei Marshmallow Flagship Phone
October 3, 2015, 5:27 PM
Microsoft Band 2 Stays Focused on Fitness, Debuts Oct. 30, Priced at $249
October 6, 2015, 9:16 PM
Apple's First Fixes to iOS 9 Land w/ iOS 9.0.1 Release
September 23, 2015, 6:11 PM
Breaking Bad: How to Crash Google's Chrome Browser With Just 8 Characters
September 23, 2015, 11:08 AM
Apple Watch Commands 2 in 3 Smart Watch Sales, WatchOS 2 Sweetens the Pitch
September 20, 2015, 6:07 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information