A Martian year is 687 Earth days long. Accordingly, NASA’s Curiosity Rover reaches its one-year Martian Anniversary on June 24, 2014 (Earth Calendar), 687 days after its mission began.
Curiosity has already accomplished the mission’s main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. One of Curiosity’s first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic “yes,” came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them.
Other important findings during the first Martian year include:
- Assessing natural radiation levels both during the flight to Mars and on the Martian surface provides guidance for designing the protection needed for human missions to Mars.
- Measurements of heavy-versus-light variants of elements in the Martian atmosphere indicate that much of Mars’ early atmosphere disappeared by processes favoring loss of lighter atoms, such as from the top of the atmosphere. Other measurements found that the atmosphere holds very little, if any, methane, a gas that can be produced biologically.
- The first determinations of the age of a rock on Mars and how long a rock has been exposed to harmful radiation provide prospects for learning when water flowed and for assessing degradation rates of organic compounds in rocks and soils.
With the success and positive findings of Curiosity, and the potential further findings to come, the case for terraforming grows. Since Mars can be hospitable to bacteria, an introduction of Earth bacteria should thrive. The question then shifts to process and, before long, the ethical debate as to whether the project should be adopted.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSf1HenQhWs]
- NASA Mars Rover Examines First Martian Sandstone ‘Windjana’ (scienceworldreport.com)
- News from Mars: Martian Water and Earth Organisms (storiesbywilliams.com)
- Ancient Lake On Mars Could Have Supported Life, New Research Suggests (huffingtonpost.com)
- Research suggests ancient Martian lake may have supported life (kfwbam.com)
- NASA’s Curiosity Rover Just Found Water in Martian Soil (gizmodo.com)
- Opportunity discovers that oldest rocks reveal best chance for martian life (phys.org)
- “The Earth Strain” –Have Our Space Missions Contaminated Mars? (Today’s Most Popular) (dailygalaxy.com)
- Mars Curiosity Rover Reveals Martian Atmosphere Has Changed Over Time, May Support Life In Future (medicaldaily.com)
- Earth organisms survive under Martian conditions: Methanogens stay alive in extreme heat and cold (sciencedaily.com)
- Lake on Mars could have teemed with microbial life (theguardian.com)