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Entries in Curiosity (6)

Wednesday
Feb202013

Mars Curiosity Drills Into Red Planet

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- Mars Curiosity has another scientific first under its belt.

The Mini Cooper-sized rover successfully collected a tiny sample of powder – enough to fill a tablespoon – as it drilled into a Mars rock earlier this month, scientists said Wednesday.

“This is the first time any rover has drilled into a rock to collect a sample anywhere but on Earth,” said Louise Jandura, an engineer on the Curiosity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Mars Curiosity mission is designed to look for signs that life once existed – or might still exist – on Mars.

When the rock sample is analyzed by Curiosity’s onboard laboratory in coming days, the results will be beamed back to eager scientists on Earth.

The team is already excited because of signs in Martian geology suggesting the rocks formed in liquid water, a fundamental requirement for life as we know it.

“The rocks in this area have a really rich geological history, and they have the potential to give us information about multiple interactions between water and rock,” said Joel Hurowitz, a Curiosity sampling scientist at NASA JPL.

Photos of the drill site show the traditional rust-colored Martian soil has been brushed away, revealing a moon-gray-colored rock underneath.

“It’s better to have a gray color than a red color,” said John Grotzinger, Curiosity’s chief scientist.

Oxidation that turns the soil rust-red destroys organic compounds, Grotzinger explained. Any signs of past life would be more likely protected in the deeper grayish-rock, but Grotzinger said it’s still like looking for a needle in a haystack.

“It’s still an accident of fate to preserve organics,” Grotzinger said on a conference call with reporters.

Curiosity touched down on the red planet in August.

The 2.5-inch hole was drilled Feb. 8 into a rock dubbed “John Klein,” after a deputy project manager who died in 2011.

The $2.5 billion rover will eventually begin driving toward the base of a three-mile-high mountain known as Mt. Sharp.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct122012

Mars Rover Discovers Earth-Like Rock

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Curiosity rover surprised NASA engineers with the first Martian rock it examined. Scientists expected to find a rock similar to the ones seen on previous missions to Mars. But instead, they found a rock with a composition seen in many rocks on Earth.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in a NASA statement Friday. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”

According to NASA, rocks on Earth with a similar composition usually come from processes in the planet’s mantle and result from crystallization of water-rich magma at an elevated pressure.

As NASA said in a statement, rock compositions are important because they “tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.” Researchers hope that the discovery of varied rock composition on Mars will give insight into the planet's past.

The rock is around the size of a football and is shaped like a pyramid.  It has been nicknamed “Jake Matijevic,” after a mission engineer who recently died.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct102012

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Bright Object on Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS(NEW YORK) -- During NASA’s Curiosity rover’s first scoop of Mars’ surface, the robot discovered more than just soil.

An image taken by Curiosity’s right Mast Camera (Mastcam) shows a small, bright object near the rover.  This was the first use of the scoop on the rover’s robotic arm, NASA said in a press release.

NASA is investigating what exactly the bright object is, but they believe it may be a piece of the rover itself.  They will not scoop anymore soil or use the arm until they determine what the shiny object is.

The image was taken on Oct. 7, the rover’s 61st day on Mars.  The rover is part of a two-year, $2.5 billion project to look for signs that Mars could once have had the chemical resources needed to support microbial life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

‘Curiosity’ Transmits will.i.am Song From Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech(PASADENA, Calif.) -- Making its interplanetary debut, Black Eyed Peas artist will.i.am’s “Reach for the Stars” became the first song to be broadcast to Earth from the Red Planet.  NASA’s rover “Curiosity” transmitted the piece on Tuesday from the Martian surface to an audience of students at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

An orchestral piece, the song was inspired by the artist’s passion for technology and space exploration and was part of a larger effort to encourage science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education.

“Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through STEAM education. I know my purpose is to inspire young people, because they will keep inspiring me back,” will.i.am said in a statement.

will.i.am was on hand at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to witness the Curiosity rover landing on Aug. 6.  After “Reach for the Stars” made its successful debut, he discussed why he chose an orchestral piece.

“I didn’t want to do a song that was done on a computer, I wanted to show human collaboration and have an orchestra there and something that would be timeless and translated into different cultures — not have a hip-hop beat or a dance beat,” he told the assembled students at the JPL.

It’s not the first time NASA has sent music deep into the cosmos.  In 2008, the space agency beamed the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” into space to commemorate its 40th anniversary.  In 1977, golden records that included music by Beethoven, Mozart and Stravinsky were placed aboard the Voyager spacecraft on the remote chance they could be discovered by intelligent civilizations.

Proceeds from “Reach for the Stars,” which costs $1.29 on iTunes, will be used to help bring science-focused schools to inner cities, according to will.i.am’s Twitter account.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Mars Rover Sends Stunning New Shots from the Red Planet

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology(PASADENA, Calif.) -- The Mars rover Curiosity has sent some spectacular new images to Earth, giving a detailed view of the landing site in Mars Gale Crater and the surface of the Red Planet.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), mission control for the project, put them together in a giant mosaic.

“The mosaic, which stretches about 29,000 pixels across by 7,000 pixels high, includes 130 images taken on Aug. 8 and an additional 10 images taken on Aug. 19,” said JPL.

The images have been combined to provide a 360-degree panoramic view of the landing site, including the 3.4-mile high Mount Sharp. Exploring Mount Sharp is one of Curiosity’s primary objectives, largely because previous spacecraft in orbit spotted evidence of possible past exposure to liquid water at the mountain’s base.

The Rover also made history by sending the first audio recording of a human voice from Mars to Earth. The voice was that of NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who congratulated the mission team on its success in getting the rover to Mars. In the recording, Bolden said, “Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not-too-distant future.”

Curiosity landed on Gale Crater on Mars on Aug. 5. It is set to explore the crater over the next two years, looking, among other things, for evidence to determine whether the planet could have ever supported life. The rover, with a $2.5 billion budget, is equipped with an array of instruments to aid in its quest, including a rock-cutting laser and an onboard chemistry lab.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Closer to Landing

NASA/JPL-Caltech(NEW YORK) -- NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover came closer and closer to its target on Friday, with all systems go for a landing on Mars Monday at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

Curiosity is the largest, most expensive and most ambitious Mars probe sent by the United States in a generation.  It's been a decade in the making and ran up bills of $2.5 billion.

NASA is playing down expectations, but if the building blocks of life are buried in the Martian soil, Curiosity's miniature onboard chemistry laboratory is designed to pick them out.

"We have to keep looking," said Andrew Kessler, a writer who spent three months covering the team that made the last successful landing, in 2008.  "Every question leads to more understanding."

Curiosity weighed 5,293 pounds on Earth.  It's the size of a small car and much bigger than the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004, cradled in airbags.  Curiosity is simply too big for that, so it will be lowered to the surface by a heat shield, then a parachute, then retro-rockets, and finally a rocket-powered sky crane.  That's something engineers have never tried before.

"When people look at it, it looks crazy," says Adam Stelzner, an engineer who laid out the landing plans, in a video NASA produced about the landing.  "Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy.  It is the result of reasoned engineering thought.  But it still looks crazy."

NASA says it thinks there's a 90 percent chance of a safe landing.  If that prediction is right, the agency says it hopes Curiosity will explore for one Martian year -- about 22 months on Earth.

If Curiosity doesn't find evidence of life, scientists say it will mean very little.  The half-dozen probes to land on Mars since 1976 have only explored a few square miles of the planet.

But what if it really does find something?  The results would probably not be conclusive, but they would be incentive for further exploration -- a tender subject at NASA because, hampered by budget cuts, it currently has no future Mars missions approved.

"If we don't ponder these things, then we're not asking ourselves the right questions," said Kessler, "and we're not looking to build bigger and better futures for ourselves."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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