Mars rover Curiosity is back to sending information to Earth after revamping its software. NASA started the new project to allow for clearer information to be sent back to Earth for further observation. The Mars rover’s next project is to drill into more rocks to unearth information about the surface makeup.
Earlier this month, the Mars rover split a rock into multiple pieces after a drilling attempt. The rover’s new target is a mass of surface rock named Mojave 2. Scientists at NASA stated that it will take longer to drill through this one.
Curiosity is set explore further regions of Mars in the lower section of Mount Sharp. The top of Mount Sharp rises to 18,000 feet above its base at floor of the Gale Crater. The science lab at NASA has been investigating and exploring it since Curiosity touched down on the surface back in 2012.
It found evidence that a few billion years ago that the desolate and arid planet once harbored liquid water that flowed across its surface. The information sent from Curiosity to Earth allowed for scientists to see ancient river beds that lay among the red surface. They found that the landscape and topography must have supported a climate and atmosphere that was not unlike the Earth.
NASA scientists explained that such conditions would have allowed microbial life to exist. Furthermore, the rover sent back new information that measured the presence of methane gas and evidence of complex carbon molecules. Chlorobenzene, a chemical compound that is attributed to the former existence of carbon-based life, was also found.
In addition to Mars rover Curiosity, the Phoenix spacecraft detected the existence of a reactive salt compound in the soil of the red planet. Though, this may not be good for the possible future colonization of Mars. Researchers stated that if this finding is confirmed, it would mean that the atmospheric and surface makeup of Mars would not be the best to support potential life as once thought.
Previously, it was found that the soil on the North Pole of Mars consisted of conditions that were comparable to backyard gardens where fertile soil could sustain the growth of sustenance. Though, new results conclude that perchlorate was found in the North Pole soil. Perchlorate is an oxidizing salt that would not allow for the growth of plants in the harsh environment.
The rover Opportunity has now been on Mars 11 years. Opportunity was only the size of a standard lawn mower. Initially, it was designed to engage in a three month exploration of the red planet’s surface. Though, it has beaten its original expectations with astronomical results. Opportunity is still operating at fully capacity over a ecade after it landed.
NASA scientists said that they wanted to celebrate such an incredible milestone. To do this rover justice, it took a panoramic picture of Cape Tribulation. This is the highest point located on the Endeavor Crater. The image shows a 14-mile wide crater and other picturesque topography in the region.
In the future, NASA stated that they set out to add helicopters to its arsenal of Mars exploration vehicles. Though, until then NASA will continue to enjoy the fantastic images and great soil analysis Mars rover Curiosity sends back to Earth.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: NASA HQ PHOTO – Flickr License