Mars Mystery: What HAS Curiosity Discovered?


Science isn’t something that just happens overnight. It takes many measurements, oodles of analysis, re-testing and re-analysis before any groundbreaking announcement can be made.

So, on the surface of Mars, inside Gale Crater on a plain called Aeolis Palus, our tenacious six-wheeled Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is doing cutting-edge laboratory work on an alien world and mission scientists are itching to announce a “historic” discovery.

“This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” John Grotzinger, lead scientist of the MSL mission, said in an interview with NPR.

But what is he referring to and why all the secrecy?

For the past few weeks, rover Curiosity has been busily scooping dirt from a sandy ridge in a geologically interesting location called “Rocknest.” Using a little scooper attached to its instrument-laden robotic arm, Curiosity has been carefully digging, shaking and dumping the fine soil grains into its Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments.

Recently, NASA announced some results from SAM after analyzing samples of Mars air. Interestingly, clues as to Martian atmospheric history were uncovered. Also, mission scientists announced an apparent dearth of methane in the air — a result that undoubtedly frustrated many hoping for the detection of the gas that may, ultimately, reveal the presence of sub-surface microbial life.

Written By: Ian O’Neill
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  1. Future manned missions to Mars might depend on establishing what resources are already available on Mars. I’m picking this latest profound discovery will reveal soil compatible with cab sav. Marginally more profound than discovering it’s only good enough for chardonnay.

    Wine snobbery is an acute problem, so it would be important to be absolutely certain before forming any conclusions.

    There are few examples of successful science in places where sufficient wine is unobtainable. So establishing the basis for a Martian wine industry would be crucial to enable future astronauts to perform effective scientific research.

  2. …they have communicated their excitement for a big discovery

    William Clark’s journal entry for Nov 7 1805 – 
    “Great joy in camp, we are in view of the ocean, this great Pacific ocean,
    which we been so long anxious to see…”

    * * *

    ’tis the eve of thanksgiv’ng
    and nothing is afowl
    except of course
    a gobbler cloud!

  3. I love the way Curiosity  stops every now and then to hold up its iPhone as if to say: “Whassup! Here’s another photo of ME, on frickin’ MARS, bitches!”

    That has got to be fun.

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