Mars Science Laboratory
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is analysing a whole bunch of new data from the ‘red planet’, retrieved by means of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission which took the newest rover Curiosity to the Martian surface. MSL is part of a long-term robotic exploration of Mars.
Mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on November 26th, 2011. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket was used to boost the Curiosity out of Earth’s atmosphere.
Curiosity has sent the first colour images of the Gale Crater, which is thought to have a diameter of 154 kilometres and a mountain in the centre (Aeolis Mons) of an estimated height of 5.5 kilometres.
According to NASA, the goal of Curiosity is to assess whether Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life and conditions favourable for preserving clues about life, if it existed.
Curiosity uses 10 science instruments to examine rocks, soil and Martian atmosphere, including a laser for vaporizing rocks from distance and mast-mounted cameras.
More about Curiosity
The rover can travel up to about 200 metres per day on Martian Terrain. It’s power is supplied by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator expected to last about a full Martian year (687 Earth days). Among its instruments, Curiosity has a chemistry and mineralogy x-ray diffraction and x-ray fluorescence instrument to examine samples gathered by the robotic arm; this instrument is designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition.
August 10th, 2012.