Late on Sunday, NASA’s martian space rover, Curiosity, embarked on a daring 7 minute descent through pink martian storm clouds and eventually touched down successfully in an ancient crater on the Red Planet, ready to search for any signs that Mars may have once held the ingredients for primitive life.
The successful landing was a much welcome milestone in the American Space Program which recently suffered extensive budget cuts, including the cancellation of the space shuttle program. Curiosity is over twice as large and five times heavier than either of the twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, that landed on Mars in 2004. The space rover is designed to spend the next two years exploring Gale Crater and an unusual 3-mile high mountain consisting of what appears to be sediments rising from the crater’s floor.
With the extensive images and analysis of the minerals, soil, and atmosphere that Curiosity has the ability to collect and beam back to Earth, Scientists hope to discover if Mars once had the capacity to sustain microbial life.
It is fascinating to see how quickly technology is evolving and to be a part of the greatest technological growth mankind has ever seen. We’ve seen the rise of the computer, the birth of the Ipod, and now a program that many consider to be dwindling has just landed a fully operational, mobile laboratory on a distant planet. What will be accomplished in 50 years? What milestones in technology and discovery will our children live to see? It is almost impossible to estimate how far we as a species will go. However, I think it is safe to say that the sky is no longer the limit, and neither is Mars.
What do you think Curiosity will uncover in its two year exploration of Mars? Is it more of an accomplishment for a human being to step foot on the moon or for a human being to create the technology to land a fully operational lab on Mars?