NASA’s Curiosity Rover Completes 5 Years Of Mars Exploration

Posted: Aug 6 2017, 1:02am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA’s Curiosity Rover Completes 5 Years of Mars Exploration
Credit: NASA

Five years later, Curiosity continues to explore Red Planet

On the night of August 5, 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover made a successful landing on Martian surface. Now, five years later, the rover is still rolling along, offering more insight into the composition and atmosphere of Mars.

Curiosity rover was targeted to land in Gale Crater, located on the equator of Mars. In the middle of Gale Crater, a large layered mountain, Mount Sharp, stands which is currently being explored by the rover.

Curiosity rover is equipped with biggest and most advanced set of scientific instruments ever sent to the Mars. With these instruments, the six-wheeled rover drills into the rocks, analyzes samples scooped from the soil and identifies their chemical composition. Curiosity rover's primary objective was to search for the signs of past life on Mars. The mission accomplished its main goal in less than a year, before reaching the Mount Sharp and researchers conclude that Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Further observations also confirmed flowing water on the Martian surface. Factures in bedrock analyzed by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover contained specific minerals, which revealed the presence of a lake more than three billion years ago in Mars' Gale Crater. It also indicated that ancient Mars had liquid water for a long time.

Researchers suggest that powerful solar wind and radiation slowly stripped away Mars ancient atmosphere and transformed the planet from one that could have been wet and habitable, to a barren, cold and dry place as we know it today.

“On Mount Sharp since 2014, Curiosity has examined environments where both water and wind have left their marks. Having studied more than 600 vertical feet of rock with signs of lakes and later groundwater, Curiosity's international science team concluded that habitable conditions lasted for at least millions of years.” NASA statement says.

Since its landing on Martian surface five years ago, the rover has driven over 10 miles and has taken more than 200,000 images

The rover is subsequently exploring higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp and investigating how ancient environmental conditions on Mars changed through time. Researchers are using all the data collected by rover’s on-board instruments to reconstruct the past environment and to put together a more complete picture of the geological history of Mars.

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