Mars rover hoping to yield more secrets

2013-08-04 20:49
An artist's rendition of the Mars Curiosity rover. (AP)

An artist's rendition of the Mars Curiosity rover. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The dazzling success of Nasa's rover Curiosity has paved the way for a human conquest of Mars, scientists say, almost one year after the groundbreaking probe first touched down on the Red Planet.

Since it successfully alighted on the Martian surface on 6 August 2012, Curiosity has gathered and beamed back to Earth a treasure trove of information expected to be vital when a manned mission to Mars eventually takes place.

Curiosity, roughly the size of a small 4x4 vehicle and weighing around a ton, has already ticked one of the most important boxes of its mission - establishing beyond doubt that Mars' environment was capable of supporting microbial life in the distant past.

That breakthrough in March means the rover's mission is likely to be extended beyond its provisional two-year mandate.

"Successes of our Curiosity - that dramatic touchdown a year ago and the science findings since then - advance us toward further exploration, including sending humans to an asteroid and Mars," said Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden.

"Wheel tracks now will lead to boot prints later."

Curiosity's nerve-jangling touchdown last year - when the six-wheeled robot landed in the Gale Crater, roughly 10km from the foot of the planet's 5 000m high Mount Sharp, had also provided crucial encouragement for those hoping to one day mastermind a successful human mission.

The complex nature of the landing showed that successfully landing heavier loads on the planet - something that has been regarded as one of the major technological challenges of a manned mission - is possible.

"We have been extremely pleased so far this year," said Michael Meyer, the lead scientist of Nasa's Mars Program.

"In terms of contribution to general exploration it's a fantastic step forward because for one, the landing system is new. So that represents a way to get to the planetary surface. We put a metric ton on the surface."

"The more we learn about Mars, the better informed we will be to send humans in the future."

Since its arrival on Mars, Curiosity has provided more than 190 gigabits of data - equivalent to around 45 600 songs stored in MP3 files - while beaming back some 36 700 full images and 35 000 thumbnail images.

The rover has also fired more than 75 000 laser shots to investigate the composition of the Martian surface while collecting and analysing sample material from two rocks.

The rover has travelled more than 1.6km and is heading towards Mount Sharp where Nasa hopes it will yield more clues about the Red Planet's make-up.

Curiosity's instruments and cameras enabled it to quickly determine the question of whether Mars could support microbial life, Meyer said.

Shortly after landing, Curiosity detected clusters of pebbles and gravel formed by the flow of water in an ancient river bed.

Analysis of rocks in the area then determined that the water which had once flowed was not salty or too acidic to prevent life.

Nasa is now sending Curiosity towards the distant peak of Mount Sharp, where scientists hope analysis of sedimentary layers will enable them to determine when Mars may have been suitable to support life.

Read more on:    nasa  |  mars  |  space

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.