Saturday, January 7, 2012

Looking for Life on Mars: Mars Science Lab

So now we've covered the search for life in distant solar systems, as well the ongoing search for evidence of water on the Martian surface. But what about life on the red planet? Is it possible that Mars may have once been, or that it might even still be, home to some form of life? The answer to both questions would seem to be a definitive- maybe.

As far as we know, life has only ever managed to development once in our solar system. But if Mars really was, once upon a time- the wet world that all of the evidence seems to suggests it to have been, it's seems likely that some form basic life may have arisen. But that of course, is all speculation. Because, although past missions to the red planet have managed to confirm the presence of water on the planet in the form of ice deposits, a compelling amount of evidence of water, both past and present, we have yet to find any evidence of life itself. But that's probably because past missions to the planet haven't really been properly equipped to look.

Enter, The Mars Science Lab.

Launched November 26, of last year, the car sized MSL -which is also being referred to as the Curiosity- rover is slated to touch down on Mars in August of 2012; assuming of course the experimental landing system which is to be used to land the largest rover yet sent to the planet manages to do it's job. MSL is actually housed within a saucer-like platform being referred to as a sky crane. This sky crane, is designed to fire it's own set of rockets and hover just above the Martian surface, while -hopefully- gently lowering the rover down to the planet's surface on a set of wires. If all goes well, the rover will then spend the next 23 months studying, among other things, Mars' climate, geology and, most excitingly, looking for the chemical signs of life.

While MSL is not designed to search for any specific form of life, it is the first probe ever sent to the planet with the express purpose of looking for the chemical building blocks of life on it's list of mission objectives.


Source: Wired Science

Check out today's video from NASA's Jest Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), for a more detailed explanation of the rover's landing procedure, and inner workings.

Posted by Youtube user: JPLnews

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