WASHINGTON – Since its dramatic touch down on Aug. 6, the Mars Science Laboratory –better known as “Curiosity” – has been checked out by its operators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory before embarking on an unprecedented two-year exploration of Gale Crater in search of signs of past microbial life on Mars.
For the past six weeks, Curiosity array of sensors, instruments and mobile laboratory have been probing the Martian surface and sniffing its thin atmosphere to determine whether the Red Planet ever provided the conditions required for life to exist.
For example, Curiosity’s Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) suite recently analyzed the Martian atmosphere to determine the concentration of methane. The initial results were a disappointment, with Curiosity’s sensors detecting only trace amounts that could be attributed to factors other than methane-producing microbes.
SAM also found that the Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide (95.9 percent), with oxygen accounting for only 0.14 percent.
Still, Curiosity’s cameras have already found unmistakable signs that water once flowed in Gale Crater. And where there is water, there once could have been life.
As Curiosity continues to move slowly across Gale Crater to it ultimate destination, the crater’s central peak, Mount Sharp, we offer a road show of what this remarkable machine has so far uncovered about Mars.
I find these pictures really fascinating.
But there is one question, which leaves me no calm:
How such "Self portrait" could be physically taken when only single one (to my knowledge) robot exists on Mars?!
It looks like that photo made by standalone observer - no physical contact between camera and robot is visible on this picture.
I take it that this is more or less like taking two self-portraits; one with the right hand and one from the left, then cutting it apart and stitching together the two sides when each was not holding the camera.
It makes for a pretty interesting self-portrait and at first glance doesn't seem possible.
This is sooo coool. Science and human endeavor at its best.
Thanks for the coverage, George,
BTW, two lead engineers from Curiosity were on the NPR comedy program "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me." Not only are they smart, they are funny!
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.