Saturday, May 4, 2013
WHAT IS CURIOSITY UP TO NOW?
Since its landing at the Gale Crater, Mars, Curiosity is now trekking westward from Glenelg to Yellowknife Bay and Point Lake. Did you know that the rover team is on Martian time? They are tracking Curiosity for 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds per sol (day), and this will last for one Martian year or 687 sols. Mars gets chilly, the temperature is about -130F degrees, and windy with wind gusts to 90mph. Oh and the rover only covers a distance of about 300 ft in a day.
In retrospect, the science team decided to name the exact landing spot “Bradbury Landing.” Glenelg was chosen because it’s a site that appears to contain three different rock types. Of interest is the sedimentary rock that we all know is formed by materials deposited by flowing water. What is indicated by the other various colors of rock in that area is yet unknown. It seems that what we do know is that Mars had an environment that was able to support water on its surface in the past.
As a matter of fact I came across this statement, “We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably, if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it,” said John Grotzinger of Caltech in Pasadena.
It has also been confirmed that the rock drilling results reveal elements found on Earth and clay containing not much salt which would indicate a lake may have existed there before. Remember, the reason for this mission is to “search for organic life on Mars,” over a two year period.
Well, looks like we’ve determined time again that water did exist on Mars. Don’t get me wrong, that’s great news. But what else may have existed on Mars? Any life forms, no matter how small, are they like any life form on Earth? Perhaps they are completely alien. Now that would be something for discussion.
But how about this news – radiation levels on Mars now are comparable to that of the same levels the astronauts are experiencing on the International Space Station. What this means is that longer term surface exploration is possible, outside the possibility of solar eruptions or surface sandstorms.
This gives us all something to think about over the next decade. Personally, bar any yet unknown factors that would kill a manned-mission there, I think scientists are planning a visit if not colonization. We need to focus on that warp speed theory, so we can get to Mars in minutes, not several months or years. There is still a lot of work to be done.
You can check NASA’s map of Mars for the current location of Curiosity here:
References: NASA, Universe Today, and Space.com