Friday, August 3, 2012

Curiosity about life on Mars?

Good news everyone, we will soon know what kind of clothing to pack for our colonization of Mars. Yep, you read that right but please feel free to read it again.  In what should be front page news, the Mars rover by the name of Curiosity has made some absolutely incredible discoveries about Mars and it's still road trippin' to our red neighbor.   But before you start packing let me catch you up on some facts about this amazing little spacecraft.

Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral, FL.  It is scheduled to make a horribly terrifying entry into Mars' atmosphere where the descent module will go from 13,200 mph to a dead stop in a little under seven minutes.  This will hopefully end in a safe landing on the 6th of August, 2012.  Once it lands, Curiosity is scheduled to spend two years studying abroad on Mars. This is the seventh American mission to Mars.  All six previous rovers completed their missions successfully and with a $2.5 billion dollar investment into this mission, NASA and all of us rover lovers are keeping fingers crossed that Curiosity will not only be successful but the most successful mission to Mars to date.  The "X" marking the landing spot will be in the Gale Crater which billions of years ago was the martian equivalent of a Great Lake.  This is super important because unlike its predecessors, Curiosity is going to specialize its studies in Astrobiology, the study of past, present and future extraterrestrial life.  This doesn't mean that Curiosity will be searching for Martians, rather it will search for carbon-based compounds to see if there was previously life on Mars.  Of course the outfitting of this newest Rover has to be up to snuff.  Curiosity is equipped with twice as many instruments as its predecessors and has been beefed up to 10 times the weight with the equivalent of monster rover tires so that it can climb mountains.  Last but not least the Curiosity can make its own decisions.  It's not equipped with artificial intelligence but it can gather and measure data, therefore making an educated decision based on it's own conclusions.  So if Curiosity becomes a sentient rover and decides that it likes the chilly -100 degree nights on Mars it can choose to stay up to 10 years on Mars before its battery runs out.

Now that your curiosity of Curiosity has been satisfied here is the front page news.  On its way to Mars, the rover has been gathering data about its surroundings.  Particularly about the radiation types and levels both on the way to Mars and on the surface of the red planet itself.  This is huge news because with the information gathered scientists will know what types of materials, construction and engineering to use for future manned spacecraft to Mars!!  Hence future colonization!  In the mean time we can daydream about what we would pack for a Martian spring.  Maybe a Pal Bot as a peace offering in case there is life on Mars.
Note: Listening to David Bowie's Life On Mars? on repeat while writing this.

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