By: Hillary Ossip
After its amazing landing, which felt like it was straight out of a science fiction novel, NASA’s Curiosity rover is now safely on Mars and already at work. “Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet's ‘habitability.’” To do this, Curiosity is equipped with an on-board laboratory that includes instruments ranging from spectrometers and radiation detectors to environmental and atmospheric sensors. Here’s what I learned from my visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center last week:
Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing site, is the ideal place to search for evidence of organic compounds on Mars, many of which are the chemical building blocks of life on Earth. Similar to the Grand Canyon (though three times as high!), Gale Crater has exposed layers of rock that NASA hopes will reveal if there ever was life on Mars. Starting at the base of the crater, where the oldest sediments from the planet’s early years can be found, Curiosity will begin roving the area, performing experiments on the crater’s rock layers with its on-board lab.