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  (Source: Jean-Luc Lacour)

"The area shown in the circular inset is 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) in diameter. It was taken before the rock was hit with the laser. The area covered in the further-magnified square inset is 8 millimeters (about one-third of an inch) across"  (Source: NASA)
The zap was used as a test for Curiosity's laser before the real traveling begins

NASA Mars rover Curiosity has zapped its first rock since landing on the Red Planet, marking the beginning of its two-year expedition to find signs of life. 
 
Curiosity used its laser just yesterday to explore its first rock since its arrival on Mars. The rock, called "Coronation," was fist-sized and used as a test for Curiosity's instruments before the true journey begins.
 
Curiosity was able to do this using the Chemistry and Camera, or ChemCam. The ChemCam combines a few different instruments, including the laser and a camera
 
Curiosity's ChemCam hit Coronation with its laser for 10 seconds using 30 pulses. Each pulse offers over a million watts of power for five one-billionths of a second, causing the atoms in the rock to become glowing plasma. Curiosity was able to catch this glow as well, and analyzed it with three spectrometers to see what elements are contained. 
 
Curiosity also used a Navigation Camera for additional shots of the zapping. Between the Navigation Camera and ChemCam's camera, the Mars rover was able to obtain a few before-and-after photos of Coronation.
 
Curiosity is a $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that has six wheels and is about the size of a Mini Cooper. It landed safely on Mars earlier this month after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011. Now, Curiosity and its tool bag (a weather station, a large robot arm, a percussive drill, a laser and 4.8kg of plutonium-238) will spend two years exploring the Red Planet in an effort to find any signs of life. 

Sources: NASA, Jean-Luc Lacour



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RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/2012 12:09:25 PM , Rating: 0
We're not going to find anything. The chances of "life" in any form being on Mars are practically zero. They probably just use the "possibility" as a means for funding.

Which isn't a bad thing. What these people have achieved is nothing short of amazing and I wish them all possible success. But the whole "water means life" bit...ain't happening.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By kattanna on 8/20/2012 12:16:33 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The chances of "life" in any form being on Mars are practically zero


alive and on the surface, yep.

I also dont think it will be able to dig down far enough to find any living microbes either.

but what it might be able to find is fossilized evidence of life from long ago.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/12, Rating: -1
RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By wiz220 on 8/20/2012 1:58:58 PM , Rating: 3
Microbes can be fossilized, I think that's what the poster was referring to. For example, many years ago the meteorite found here on Earth that was traced back to Mars was in the media for quite some time because they thought they might have found a fossilized microbe in it. I think everyone understands that you're not going to find a fossilized T-Rex on Mars ;)


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Mitch101 on 8/20/2012 4:46:35 PM , Rating: 2
Some day we will look up and see this:
http://www.nycresistor.com/wp-content/uploads/2010...


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Schmide on 8/20/2012 5:26:10 PM , Rating: 2
Although in episode 15: The Tick switches his jet pack with his explosives pack and is rocketed into the deepest parts of space, destroy the C, taking a chunk out of the moon and making it say HA.

http://home.jps.net/~lsnyder/moon.jpg


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Ammohunt on 8/20/2012 2:07:12 PM , Rating: 2
Wow i didn't know you were a planetary geologist or have you visited Mars before?


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By rs2 on 8/20/2012 7:42:35 PM , Rating: 2
I'm glad you're the definitive expert in all things Mars related. NASA should have just gone to you instead of trying to do any actual science and exploration.

/sarcasm


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By geddarkstorm on 8/20/2012 12:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, I'm not so interested in "life", since the perclorate and other horribly dangerous oxidizers in the soil would eliminate all chance of that anyways (let alone the temperatures, windstorms, dessication, radiation, etc). I'm interested in the technical makeup of all these Martian locations. Can we adapt any to colonies? What about resource extraction and mining? It's exciting, as this is like prospecting on steroid, even if just of the surface and a limited area.

Finding areas of abundant subsurface water would also be very useful for our colonizing/refueling station ideas.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/2012 12:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm interested in the technical makeup of all these Martian locations. Can we adapt any to colonies? What about resource extraction and mining? It's exciting, as this is like prospecting on steroid, even if just of the surface and a limited area.


Exactly, that's the ticket. And I suspect a great deal of their work will help us answer these questions. The whole "search for life" routine is just media PR hype.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By RufusM on 8/20/2012 1:58:33 PM , Rating: 2
I just want one of these hardened plutonium 238 batteries in a car that I can drive for about 10 years without recharging.

https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt?open=51...


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By RufusM on 8/20/2012 1:59:34 PM , Rating: 2
Edit: I know it's not really a battery but a charge source for some other battery.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Mitch101 on 8/20/2012 4:50:38 PM , Rating: 3
Im hoping we bring back Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulators


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By bupkus on 8/20/2012 12:50:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But the whole "water means life" bit...ain't happening.
We have found life on Earth in locations and under conditions that we previously had considered impossible to allow life let alone support it.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/2012 1:08:33 PM , Rating: 1
That's because Earth itself has been ideal for the proliferation of all kinds of live, and their evolution. If some microbes, for example, evolved to survive on undersea volcanic vents on Earth in no way means this could happen everywhere else.

Your argument seems to be saying that because scientists previously had misconceptions of life here on Earth, the same can be said of Mars. This is a fallacy.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By TSS on 8/20/2012 1:57:49 PM , Rating: 3
It's also a fallacy to outright dismiss something based on previous conceptions which aren't all that solid yet.

We have no clear idea of when the marian atmosphere completly evaporated. And even when it did, that doesn't mean oceans dry up inmediantly. They will eventually, but microbial life might very well form before that time.

And proving there once was life on mars, however small, is pretty significant. Goes a long way to *proving* the universe is teeming with life. I mean there's a good chance the universe is filled with life but i'd like to see proof of that within my lifetime. It'd be very convenient if the planet next door is able to offer that.

Mind you i don't think the rover will find it. If there is any, it'll probably be buried underground in a few layers deeper then we'd find dinosaurs. Anything on the surface has been sandblasted by martian sandstorms for hundreds of millions of years. Even if there was a battlestar galactica type plot where humans actually came from mars and we once had huge beautifull cities there, we'd still have to dig really deep to find any trace of it.

Lasers are cool and all. But i think life won't be found untill we get to it with a good ol' fashioned shovel.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Jaybus on 8/24/2012 2:17:40 PM , Rating: 2
Why do you think they go down into craters? At the bottom of a crater, you only have to drill sideways a little to get at the layers millions of years old. A nice space rock did most of the digging for them.

How would you find microbes with a shovel? Even on Earth we have to have instruments to find the microbes in soil samples. I understand the need for the laser-induced flouescence instrument to examine composition of materials, but why not a plain old light microscope that can send images back to Earth for examination by microbiologists, etc? The LIF instrument can see that there are organic molecules, but can't see the forest for the trees.


RE: The Rebel Rock Is Within Range
By Paj on 8/21/2012 7:29:12 AM , Rating: 2
How about Europa? Liquid oceans, compressed (and warmed) by Jupiter's gravity....

Or Titan, with its hydrocarbon oceans...

If they can find bacteria that survives in nuclear reactors, low temperatures and extreme pressures on Earth - who are we to say the same could not occur in our Solar System or otherwise?


By MrBungle123 on 8/20/2012 4:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The chances of "life" in any form being on Mars are practically zero.


I bet there are a few microbes that hitched a ride on the rover hanging out in one of the heated chambers that keep the electronics warm alive on mars right now. :)


By maugrimtr on 8/21/2012 10:40:21 AM , Rating: 1
It's not simply existing life (even they must know that close to impossible) but past life. Mars once had more atmosphere, it was warmer and it had liquid water on or close to the surface. In other words, it was somewhat close to Earth at points in its evolution. That raises the probability of life existing, at some point, on Mars.

Their real challenge is using geology to locate the impact that life should have had in the rock record. Something we have a lot of experience with here on Earth.

Incidentally, this is the first mission to Mars for this specific purpose. The twin explorers were sent to establish whether liquid water existing on Mars (the rovers located evidence of this long ago). As such, we've literally only scratched the surface of Mars


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