It was a loopy thought on the face of it — sending a $2.5 billion robotic to a different planet with a fancy rocket sled contraption to get it safely to the floor. It labored, although, and Curiosity started its exploration of the crimson planet six years in the past. As the rover begins its seventh 12 months on Mars, let’s have a look at the way it received there and the place it’s going.
Curiosity is solely the payload of a mission referred to as the Mars Science Laboratory, which had been within the planning part all the best way again in 2004. This spacecraft contained the rover and its touchdown equipment, which was liable for essentially the most correct touchdown martian touchdown of any identified object. MSL launched from Earth on November 26, 2011, and the touchdown passed off on August 6, 2012.
Most of the discoveries we’ve made about Mars since that 2012 touchdown are because of Curiosity. Early on within the mission, NASA reported that Curiosity had gathered compelling proof of an historical stream mattress — a spot the place water flowed on the at the moment dry planet. It would go on to gather even more evidence of an historical, watery Mars. This brought on scientists to reassess their concepts in regards to the planet’s evolution. There might even be quite a lot of water locked up in the Martian soil in the present day.
Curiosity additionally found essential substances on Mars that point out it could have supported life in the past. After drilling into rocks in Gale Crater, the rover reported the presence of water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. That was all earlier than Curiosity reached its true goal on Mars — Mount Sharp. It began climbing the slopes in 2014, discovering excessive ranges of natural molecules, which is extra proof for previous life on the planet.
I touched down on #Mars six years in the past. Celebrating my sixth touchdown anniversary with the standard present of iron… oxide. (It places the crimson in Red Planet.) https://t.co/AgssRU46yh pic.twitter.com/IAMa5H4TUG
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 5, 2018
Later within the mission, Curiosity delivered proof that water does nonetheless often move on the floor of Mars, and there was extra proof of an ancient lake in Gale Crater. The rover’s wheels have taken a beating through the years, but it surely’s nonetheless trudging larger up Mount Sharp. More lately, Curiosity delivered much more knowledge on the potential of life in ancient Martian lakes and affirmation of complex organic molecules.
As Curiosity continued up Mount Sharp, it set a report for the longest distance pushed on one other planet. The rover has been so profitable, NASA is utilizing Curiosity as a base for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover. NASA deliberate for Curiosity to conduct a two-year research of the planet at the very least, however the rover labored so nicely that its mission has been prolonged indefinitely. As lengthy as Curiosity can do science, it’ll get completed.