Life on Mars?
According to NASA, their Mars rover Curiosity may soon begin drilling in order to gain a better understanding on the chemical properties of the Martian soil. To the scientists involved in the Curiosity project and the many admirers of the rover, this is the moment the mobile robot has been waiting for since landing on Mars over five months ago.
Beginning to drill into the surface of Mars is expected to be one of NASA’s newest rover’s biggest accomplishments. At this milestone, Curiosity, which carries a full, nuclear-powered science laboratory on its six wheels, will be able to help the NASA scientists learn a lot more about the soil on Mars.
On Tuesday, the scientists involved in the Curiosity mission met to draft a plan from the Mars rover to begin drilling into the surface. According to Richard Cook, the project manager for the Curiosity mission, the team of scientists have successfully picked a spot for the rover to attempt to drill for the first time since it landed on the Red Planet.
“We’re thrilled, and we can’t wait to get drilling,” said John Grotzinger, a project specialist on the Curiosity mission who works at the California Institute of Technology.
NASA has released details about the chosen drilling area, including information that it contains many different types of rocks that Curiosity can drill into, extract, and study. In addition, officials have announced that within the next few days, the robotic rover will drive to the chosen spot. From there, Curiosity is expected to begin drilling into Martian soil sometime within the next two weeks.
While the Curiosity mission managers chose the first drilling site for the rover, they also agreed upon a name for the historic site. The area where the newest Mars rover will first drill into Mars has been named “John Klein” in memory of deputy project manager who was involved in the Curiosity project and died in 2011.
Since landing on Mars five months ago, Curiosity has employed a great number of the scientific gadgets on board in order to study the mysterious Red Planet. So far, the rover has learned how to drive, use its scoop arms, chemically analyze samples, and more.
The many instruments aboard the rover, including the unused drilling feature, are expected to help Curiosity reach the goal of its two year mission, which is to figure out if there was ever water or life on Mars and if the Red Planet could ever be inhabitable by humans.
When Curiosity begins drilling in two weeks, it will be a first on Mars. NASA’s Opportunity, which is still roaming Martian land, and Spirit, which lost communication in 2010, were able to study samples below the surface, but not to the degree of Curiosity. The old rovers could chip away at the rock until the surface in layers, while the newest NASA Mars rover can drill directly down into the soil a few inches.