The Curiosity Rover on Mars has reached another milestone… 2,000 days on Mars, well technically it’s 2,055 days since the days are longer on Mars. But this is about being on Mars.
This is a very big milestone for Curiosity and the scientists running the rover as this week they plan on drilling into the clay-rich rocks of Mount Sharp.
Ever since its landing on Mars in 2012, Curiosity has traveled 11.6 miles on the red planet.
Some of the achievements that Curiosity has accomplished include unique HD pictures of the “Red Planet,” the playing of a song on another planet (Happy Birthday to You, in celebration of Curiosity’s one year anniversary on Mars), and the investigation of water on the planet.
Curiosity is not the first rover to be on Mars, of course. The honor of the first rover on Mars goes to Sojourner. However, Sojourner only lasted 85 days on Mars (83 sols) due to the lack of technology at the time (1997).
Curiosity is also not the only rover on Mars currently. Opportunity, which has spent over 5,000 days on the “Red Planet,” is still in operation today.
Each of the Mars rovers over the years have gotten better and better, and come 2020 we will see the best rover in NASA’s history. Designs for that rover are coming from the designs of the very durable Curiosity.
Looking at life with curiosity and being open to new ways of thinking was a key part of Latif Nasser’s speech, which combined scientific ideas with intellectual inquiry.
When Nasser started school at Dartmouth College, he was amazed by the amount of information available to him. “I learned that I was curious about a thing I never even knew existed,” Nasser said of attending speeches throughout his college career.
Nasser’s speech took place at Radford University on February 21. In his talk, Nasser intended to make science exciting and give students inspiration to take advantage of every experience afforded them at Radford.
Working as a director at Radiolab, Nasser’s job is to be curious. Telling unusual stories is part of what he does best and in his speech, he shared two stories with two important lessons. The first story detailed the surprising history of the modern-day camel. The animal first appeared in North America and was originally built for surviving cold weather. The camel’s broad feet allowed it to walk over the snow and its hump contained fat to help it get through the 6-month long winter. “Later, [the camel] retrofitted those winter features for a hot desert environment,” Nasser explained. This story proves the value of open-mindedness to ideas. “At any one moment, at any place, you could find one tiny scrap of evidence…that forces you to reframe everything you thought you knew,” he said.
The next story Nasser told involved Christina Lee and Freya Harrison, two women who met at an Old English book club, who combined history and microbiology to make a startling discovery: a potion made a thousand years ago meant for curing staph infections worked on modern day bacterial infections. Though the cure has not yet been tested on humans, the women said this discovery shows that bacteria can lose its resistance to certain drugs over time, and in today’s world, when bacteria can quickly grow resistant to new drugs, developing a process of resting a drug and then using it again later could be helpful. This story urges individuals to combine their different interests and “make connections only [they] can make,” as a person never knows what they may find.
In his closing statement, Nasser reminded the audience to be on the lookout for new ideas and always remember the importance of curiosity. As one of his college professors told him, “Not only have 99 % of those interesting questions in the world not been answered, 99 % of the most interesting questions in the world haven’t even been asked yet.”
For a long time, Mars was thought to be a big, red, dusty wasteland floating through outer space. Our previous explorations of the planet have revealed pictures that depicted it as just that, a wasteland. Mars has only been known to have two poles, much like ours, which are covered in ice. However, there seemed to be no sign of liquid water– until now.
NASA announced in a press conference on Monday that they have discovered what appears to be flowing, liquid water on the planet. It’s been thought that mars could have had oceans and lakes ions ago, but scientists thought that the planet may be too cold to have liquid water on it now.
Five years ago, NASA scientists noticed some dark streaks that appeared during the warmer months, and disappeared in colder months. Scientists have been observing these streaks since, but assumed the streaks could be dust or small landslides. Studying the different kinds of minerals and elements on the planet, scientists realized something had to have been moistening these minerals in order for them to flow the way they have been.
“The amount of water could be huge: the scientists estimated that one dark line contains, at a minimum, enough water to fill 40 of the enormous swimming pools used for international competitions,” according to USA Today.
The issue with this liquid is that the dust on mars absorbs it so quickly, it’s more of a sludgy landslide than a flowing river as many people are misunderstanding. The water is also thought to be many times more salty than our own oceans water.
Scientists remain optimistic about the discovery, however. “Water is the elixir of life,” Mars expert Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis told USA Today. In other words, this discovery is a huge step towards discovering some kind of life on Mars. This also means that there’s a great possibility that humans could populate Mars, in the very distant future. Although it may be decades or even centuries before we colonize Mars, the possibility is much greater than it was before this discovery.
This discovery comes at an inconvenient time, as Hollywood is preparing to premiere a Mars-based movie featuring Matt Damon.
The Martian, which is based on a book by Andy Weir, is about an astronaut, Watney, who finds himself stranded on Mars. Watney is left to his own devices to find a way to grow his own food until he can be rescued. NASA’s discovery of water on Mars sort of spoils the plot of the movie, because Mars is supposed to be a dry, arid wasteland.
Weir seemed pretty optimistic about the discovery, telling Wired Magazine that the setting of Watney’s base camp is nowhere near where water has been detected on Mars. Jim Green, NASA’s head of planetary science also told Wired that despite the new discovery, he suggests that his scientific friends, “check the science at the door. Go on in and enjoy the movie.”
The search for water on Mars has gone on for almost as long as humanity has been traveling beyond our own planet. While tantalizing hints have been uncovered at various stages in this search, NASA’s latest baby, the Curiosity rover, has finally unearthed conclusive evidence that flowing water once existed on the red planet. Continue reading A once-liquid Mars→