- Why go to Mars?
- Seeking signs of habitability
- Where to look?
- Destination: Gale crater
- Rover vision
- Surface and atmospheric studies
- Curiosity's arm
- Curiosity's hand
- Chemistry and mineralogy
- SAM Instruments
- Preparing for landing
- Entry, descent & landing
- MSL Brief
- Curiosity landing simulation
Why go to Mars?
A turbulent history
Over the past three decades, spacecrafts have shown us that Mars is rocky, cold, and dry beneath its hazy, pink sky. Evidence from Mars missions suggest Mars may have been much warmer and wetter than we observe it to be today. An early clue was this huge shield volcano about 26 kilometers high and 600 kilometers across; has about the same area as Arizona. Known as Olympus Mons.
We've discovered that today's Martian wasteland hints at a formerly volatile world where volcanoes once raged, meteors plowed deep craters, and flash floods rushed over the land. For example, the canyon system of Valles Marineris is largest and deepest known in solar system; extends more than 4,000 kilometers and up to 10 kilometers deep.
Because water is key to life as we know it, NASA designed earlier Mars missions to make discoveries under the science theme of "Follow the Water." Alluvial fans identified on Mars are one of the more definitive evidences for liquid water flowing on the Martian surface and preserve information about the hydrologic conditions at the time of their formation. For example these channels are thought to have formed millions of years ago:
Progressive discoveries related to evidence of past and present water in the geologic record make it possible to take the next steps toward finding evidence of past habitable environments and possibly life itself. The Mars Science Laboratory mission and its Curiosity rover mark a transition between the themes of "follow the water" and ”explore habitability”/”Seek Signs of Life”. While doing so, it continues to prepare us for human exploration by understanding more about hazards in the Martian environment.
In addition to landing in a place with past evidence of water, Curiosity is exploring past habitability and seeking evidence of organics, the chemical building blocks of life.
Why do we look for organics?
Since Curiosity found habitable conditions favorable to life in the first year of its mission and continues to see special clays that are known on Earth to preserve organics, its findings can shape future missions that would potentially bring samples back to Earth for life-detection and other tests or for future missions that carry advanced ancient-life-detection experiments to Mars.
In this sense, NASA’s Curiosity rover is on the cusp of a strategic transition in Mars exploration science strategies, establishing habitability and paving the way for seeking signs of life with future missions. While it cannot detect signs of past life itself, it is part of a step-by-step exploration plan to make progress in that direction.
Biological objectives: Inventory organic compounds which are the chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur)
Geological and geochemical objectives: How were rocks formed over time? What are they composed of?
Planetary process objectives: History of Martian atmosphere. Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) atmospheric evolution.
Surface radiation objective: How much shielding would humans need? Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation.
Want to join the conversation?
- Do we think that Mars could have be like our plant Earth?(21 votes)
- Yes, it is similar however we have a long ways to go. also, mars sometimes has acid rain showers and has changed from its habitable state which was millions of years ago.(16 votes)
- If we could reach and live on mars, could we live on many other planets?(8 votes)
- Depends. Some planets are further away from the sun so those planets would be colder. Other planets are way too close to the sun. So you'd probably be burnt alive if you decided to live on those planets :)(8 votes)
- In the video about how Curiosity are trying to find organics, I have a question. What if the molecules has already broken down and there will be no remains available. If so, would NASA be on a wild goose chase?(6 votes)
- NASA is not looking for remains of Martians or a graveyard or anything remotely like that .They are looking for the basic components needed for life to exist and also compounds like methane large scale which are produced due to living organisms also,to know whether mars could have ever supported life(5 votes)
- How many years do you think people will go to mars and do you think they'll survive.(4 votes)
- I think they will probably be at Mars in the year 2065 at least, considering our current technology. But I don't have a clue on how they'll survive.(6 votes)
- In the timeline, it says to "prepare for human exploration." Do we have an estimate of about when that could happen?(5 votes)
- in about 2030 or 2020 many companies are doing it(2 votes)
- why does mars have all that radiation i mean look at it if it wasn't all that radiated it would be earths twin.(4 votes)
- How can you prove that earth has a magnetic field surrounding it?(1 vote)
- if mars has iron what other ores/minerals does it have(4 votes)
- Some minerals that mars has is Basalt, ilmenite, and magnetite(2 votes)
- Why do most scientists assume that life forms on other planets need the same conditions and have the same requirements to live as organisms on Earth? Since we adapted to live on the environment with what resources we have, why wouldn't they adapt to live on a planet without oxygen/water?(2 votes)
- They don't assume that. But until we get evidence of such other lifeforms, the best chance they have to find life outside of our planet is to look for the evidence we are already familiar with. "Start with what you know."(3 votes)
- Does Mars have undergrond caves and rare minerals?(3 votes)
- Mars certainly does have caves and caverns. Some of these have already been spotted by Martian observers. http://www.space.com/18519-mars-caves-lava-tubes-photos.html
As for rare minerals, given that Earth and Mars formed from the same dust cloud surrounding the sun billions of years ago, it only makes sense that we'd find the same minerals on both planets. We've discovered lots already, and we've only scratched the surface. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_Mars(1 vote)
- If we go live on Mars what would Mars NOT have that Earth does have? Also, did scientists find pieces of bone or other kind of things humans could have or leave behind that could help determine that their was live on Mars?(2 votes)
- The big challenge is that Mars doesn't have a magnetic field surrounding it like Earth does, so solar radiation easily strips the planet of most of its atmosphere. With little to no atmosphere, Mars doesn't have liquid water the way Earth does, although it does have lots of water frozen at the poles and underground.
So far, scientists have found no bones or anything else man-made to indicate that large, complex creatures lived on Mars. We've found no fossils or footprints or scraps of pottery, like we do all over here on Earth. Our best guess right now is that if there was ever life on Mars, it never evolved beyond the stage of bacteria or other microscopic life.
But who knows? The more we explore, the more chance there will be that we will be surprised.(1 vote)