Mars Science Laboratory

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is headed by the car-sized Curiosity Rover. Launched from Cape Canaveral in November 2011, Curiosity landed in the Gale crater on 6 August 2012. The mission has been a success and the rover is expected to continue to explore Mars until 2028. Currently, the mission is undergoing several critical tests to ensure its success. Read on to learn more about Curiosity.

SAM

The SAM on the Curiosity Rover has been in use since 2012. The rover was upside-down at the time the image was taken, with its belly pan removed. Scientists at NASA/JPL-Caltech built the instrument with an international team of scientists. The instruments’ assembly and solid sample inlets are shown in inset images. The SAM mission will be presented on Dec. 3 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

DAN

The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument on Mars Science Laboratory‘s Curiosity rover is a pulsed sealed tube neutron source and detector used to measure hydrogen, water, and ice on Mars. It measures the amount of radiation that passes through a material’s surface as a function of its density. The DAN instrument is expected to give scientists important data on these materials, which may lead to the discovery of new ways to treat them.

Curiosity

The car-sized Curiosity Rover is a scientific exploration vehicle for Mars. Part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, it was launched on 26 November 2011 and landed in the Gale crater on 6 August 2012.

Vera Rubin Ridge

Curiosity is currently exploring Mars’s Vera Rubin ridge, a high-standing ridge near the base of Mount Sharp. It is believed that the ridge may have hosted iron oxidation in the past, based on the evidence provided by the rover’s orbital spectral data. Microbes on Earth are known to catalyze iron oxidation/reduction at redox interfaces.

Dust Devil

The Curiosity Rover is capturing data on Mars’s atmosphere, including a dust devil. A dust devil is a low-pressure system with a weight that can be equivalent to a truck. Seismometers on InSight measure tiny tilts in the ground and can detect atmospheric signals. In addition, dust devils can provide valuable information about the near-surface stiffness of Mars.

Instruments

The instruments on the Mars 2020 rover are dedicated to the study of high-energy particles on the Martian surface. The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument is critical to assessing risks for future manned missions to Mars. Another instrument, the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), detects subsurface water molecules. The DAN instrument has implications for astrobiology and will study how in situ water can be used on future missions to Mars.

Mount Sharp

Scientists hope to learn more about the formation of Mount Sharp by studying the geology of the area. The crater’s central peaks look like they are made from sedimentary rock that has been deposited for over two billion years. They hope to understand how the planet’s surface came to be filled with water before transitioning into a desiccated state. But there are a lot of questions. The mission to Mars will be able to answer many of them by studying Mount Sharp’s geology.

Mars Surface

The next step in the Curiosity Rover’s mission to Mars is a sample return mission. Scientists will need to find out more about the planet’s geologic history. Mars 2020 has several goals. It will test a new technique for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere and characterize potential environmental conditions. It will also study the composition of the Martian atmosphere and collect samples from its surface. Scientists hope to use these samples to help answer questions about past microbial life.

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