Curiosity Rover Celebrates First Year on MarsBy: Brian Powell - June 24, 2014
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet in August 2012, nearly two years ago. However, today marks the one year Martian anniversary of the rover’s presence on Mars, a feat many thought would never been seen.
Mars, being further away from the sun than Earth, takes 687 days for one revolution to occur, meaning that a year is considerably longer on Mars than here on Earth.
Over the course of one year, the Curiosity rover was able to surpass expectations for its mission, despite some mechanical hiccups.
The goal of the Mars rover mission was simply to discover whether or not life would have been feasible on the fourth planet from the sun. While many thought the answer to that question would not have been possible until Curiosity reached Mount Sharp, the Curiosity rover was able to surprise everyone by solving the riddle much sooner than anticipated.
Curiosity landed near an ancient riverbed, called Yellowknife Bay, where it promptly collected samples with its drill for analysis. Scientists were ecstatic when two mudstone slabs showed all of the necessary ingredients needed for life on Mars: mild water, the essential elements of life, and a chemical energy source similar to what microbes use here on Earth.
While the Curiosity rover celebrated its first initial victory, it would soon suffer two defeats. The first would come when Curiosity failed to detect any methane in Mars’s atmosphere, leading many scientists pondering the viability of life on the planet considering almost all organisms produce methane as a byproduct of metabolism.
The next hang-up occurred when Curiosity was sidelined from driving due to damages to its front wheels, forcing NASA scientists to think of innovative ways to drive and paths to take in order to ensure Curiosity was able to continue its mission.
During its first year, Curiosity had also been able to measure radiation exposure and levels on Mars, aiding scientists in their studies to determine what type of shielding astronauts would need if they were to visit the Red Planet in the future.
Currently, Curiosity is making its way to Mount Sharp to study geological layering to gain more information about ancient environments. Let’s hope it lasts long enough to complete its mission.
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