NASA’s Mars science rover Curiosity has entered Mars and landed there to start its two year mission seeking the evidence about existence of life on the planet. Even though Mars is considered as a graveyard for spacecrafts, because of many failed attempts to send spacecraft, NASA and other space exploration agencies have always shown interest to explore this planet.
It is interesting to note that around three dozen attempts were made by Europe, Japan, US as well as Soviet Union since 1960 to explore Mars, with more than half of them facing a disastrous end. However, Curiosity is one such attempt by NASA that is no less than a feat in itself. The following are some facts about Mars Curiosity rover.
1. Many of you might not know but Curiosity is the seventh landing of NASA on the red planet. The earlier attempts by NASA to circle down, zip past or set down in the past have failed. This engineering spectacle entered the atmosphere of Mars at a speed of around 13,000 mph.
2. “Seven minutes of terror” was the term that was coined by NASA that referred to the descent into the atmosphere of Mars. The rover was lowered by cables to the ground at a very slow pace. A video camera ensured that such remarkable moment are captured and sent to earth.
3. “Touchdown confirmed. We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God.” These were the first words that were said by an engineer controlling the mission. Once these words were announced in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, the chorus of applauds and cheers echoed the entire lab.
4. The first set of low resolution images of Mars rover has already be sent, they showed the shadows and wheels of the rover on the surface of red plant. More high resolution color images are expected to be transmitted to earth.
5. Curiosity was built at a whooping sum of around $2.5 billion, which the scientist feel is not a big cost if we see the bonanza of discoveries which it will offer. The information that will be taken from this rover will throw more light on existence of life on this planet. The entire voyage of Curiosity took a little more than eight months and spanned more than 350 million miles.
6. Curiosity is a nuclear powered rover and looks like a small car. It is equipped with weather stations, scientific tools as well as cameras. It has got a robotic arm along with a power drill, a detector to measure harmful radiations, laser capable of zapping distant ricks etc. Over the next couple of years, it will drive over the mountains that are there on the crater floor and will poke into the rocks. Thus, it will help to determine if the planet ever had traces of life or capable of supporting any form of life.
7. The mission of Curiosity is to examine the basic life ingredients including oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, carbon as well as phosphorous. Even though it is not capable to search for the fossil or living microorganisms, the presence of life ingredients will definitely provide answers to a lot of unanswered questions about life on Mars.
8. Curiosity’s mission is also to study Gale Crater, which a three mile high mountain having a 96 kilometers wide crater. The six wheeled Curiosity rover is expected to climb at least halfway to collect information about the crater. It will function for around 98 earth weeks.