The Curiosity Mission

Throughout human history, Mars has always seemed to be a perfect place for humans to live,

and Nasa launched a rover on November 26 in 2011, the largest and most capable rover ever sent to mars.

Image credit- http://inutoneko.info


It was launched on Nov. 26, 2011, and landed on Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012) in the Gale crater (named after the Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale {1865-1945}).


The Curiosity rover landed at the foot of a layered mountain within this massive crater. The portion of the crater where Curiosity landed has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water.

This basketball player-size rover has a 7-foot-long arm to perform all the tasks. It collected rock, soil, and air samples for analysis. Because of its size, it can carry an advanced kit of 10 science instruments which includes tools, including 17 cameras, a laser to vaporize and study small pinpoint spots of rocks at a distance, and a drill to collect powdered rock samples. It hunts for special rocks that formed in water and/or have signs of organics.

{Gale crater}

Image credit- https://mars.nasa.gov

With the help of the most advanced instruments, it can read records by drilling the rocks. It also measures the chemical fingerprints present in different rocks and soils to determine their composition and history, especially their past interactions with water.


Curiosity was lowered to the surface by a tether while scientists launched rockets to hover it while a parachute descended the spacecraft on the parachute. The tether was cut, and the landing system crashed-landed a safe distance away after Curiosity landed on its wheels.



Image credit- https://mars.nasa.gov

To communicate with the rover, scientists used "The NASA Deep Space Network (DSN)", an international network of antennas that provide communication links between scientists and engineers on Earth to the missions in space and on Mars.

This mission has four main goals:


1. To determine whether life ever arose on Mars.

2. Characterize the climate of Mars.

3. Characterize the geology of Mars.

4. Prepare for Human Exploration.


Science instruments will assist in achieving these goals, which include Cameras, Spectrometers, Radiation Detectors, Environmental Sensors, and Atmospheric Sensors.

Over 3500 sols have been completed on Mars by Curiosity. There was evidence that smooth, rounded pebbles had rolled downstream for at least a few miles in a river that was ankle- to hip-deep in this period, and when curiosity reached Mount Sharp, it discovered 1,000 vertical feet of rock that originated as mud at the base of a series of shallow lakes. The Gale crater has likely been home to rivers and lakes for millions of years or more.


Curiosity discovered that ancient Mars had the right chemistry to support living microbes. Yellowknife Bay's "Sheepbed" mudstone contains sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon--critical ingredients for life. The sample also reveals clay minerals and not too much salt, which suggests fresh, possibly drinkable water once flowed there.


On Mars, organic molecules were discovered after several samples were drilled from Mount Sharp and its surrounding plains having been examined by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument for a lengthy period of time.


Image credit- https://mars.nasa.gov



The Tunable Laser Spectrometer within the SAM instrument detected a seasonally varying background level of atmospheric methane and observed a ten-fold increase in methane over a two-month period.

The discovery of methane is exciting because methane can be produced by living organisms or by chemical reactions between rock and water.

(Possible Methane Sources and Sinks)

Image credit-https://mars.nasa.gov


At the time of this trip, the rover experienced radiation levels that would exceed NASA's career limit for astronauts, if left unshielded. On mars, RAD (Radiation Assessment Detector) found two types of radiation posing potential health risks to astronauts in deep space.

One is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), particles caused by supernova explosions and other high-energy events outside the solar system. The othe