A Milestone Accomplished, and a Significant Discovery on Mars

Curiosity Self Portrait  /   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Two noteworthy news stories from Mars.

First, NASA’s diminutive but never say die rover Opportunity, which initially began its three month primary mission on the Red Planet 11 years ago, has now traveled a cumulative distance of 26.2 miles. Over the course of that journey, the distance of a marathon, Opportunity has cataloged a changing, water sculpted landscape which began with highly acidic, hostile to life conditions near Eagle crater, and has since come to a much more conducive environment near the rim of the Endeavour crater.

Opportunity Image of Marathon Vally at Endeavour Crater: Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Opportunity Image of Marathon Vally at Endeavour Crater:
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

 

The NASA.Gov story, with a great info-graphic showing the adventure, is here.

Lest it not be forgotten, the Mars Exploration Rover mission’s “follow the water” mandate was undertaken by two rovers.

Spirit's View From Troy Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Spirit’s View From Troy
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

 

Halfway around the planet, and further from the equator, Opportunity’s sister rover Spirit, traveled a none to shabby 4.8 miles, some of it backwards, before it became mired in sand at site named Troy. Spirit sent its last transmission on March 22, 2010.

The big news however, comes from the far larger Curiosity Rover operating in the Gale Crater.

From NASA.gov:

“A team using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover has made the first detection of nitrogen on the surface of Mars from release during heating of Martian sediments. The nitrogen was detected in the form of nitric oxide, and could be released from the breakdown of nitrates during heating. Nitrates are a class of molecules that contain nitrogen in a form that can be used by living organisms. The discovery adds to the evidence that ancient Mars was habitable for life.”

The full story, linked here, goes on to clarify that this most recent discovery is by no means indicative that the Mars once, and may still, harbor life. Still, taken together with other findings such as those from Opportunity, the case is getting progressively stronger.

 

Posted in: Mars, NASA

About the Author:

Post a Comment

π
WordPress Login Protected by Clef