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NASA Mars Space Science

Mars Curiosity Rover's First Road Trip Planned 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the off-to-kill-cats dept.
littlesparkvt writes "NASA has announced the first destination for the Curiosity Rover. They're sending it to 'Glenelg,' a natural intersection of three kinds of terrain. 'The trek to Glenelg will send the rover 1,300 feet (400 meters) east-southeast of its landing site. One of the three types of terrain intersecting at Glenelg is layered bedrock, which is attractive as the first drilling target. "We're about ready to load our new destination into our GPS and head out onto the open road," Grotzinger said. "Our challenge is there is no GPS on Mars, so we have a roomful of rover-driver engineers providing our turn-by-turn navigation for us." Prior to the rover's trip to Glenelg, the team in charge of Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, is planning to give their mast-mounted, rock-zapping laser and telescope combination a thorough checkout. On Saturday night, Aug. 18, ChemCam is expected to "zap" its first rock in the name of planetary science. It will be the first time such a powerful laser has been used on the surface of another world.'"
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Mars Curiosity Rover's First Road Trip Planned

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  • Zap ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @08:36AM (#41035641)

    People have been talking about doing Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy in space for decades, so I hope it works well with Chemcam. It has a lot of promise, both to speed up exploration, and in places like asteroids and comets, where it may not be feasible or safe to actually touch the target.

    They have picked a boring nearby rock for the first target. There has been a discussion of whether or not Mars rocks have a "desert patina" (or varnish), and, if so, what is its nature, and even if it has a biological component. The Chemcam samples the top layer of the target, so may help to answer that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 18, 2012 @10:02AM (#41036259)

    It's very very unlikely that we're going to find any kind of functional ecosystem over there. The best we can hope for is a surviving remnant - a few scraps of past life that still manage to live. Fossil evidence of past life would be second best. Curiosity is fossil hunting, among other things, and that includes chemical traces of long dead single celled life.

    If it doesn't find evidence of past life, it'll also be studying the geological history of mars to give us a much better idea of whether to give up on the fossil hunting entirely.

    Being sure that mars is dead, and has always been dead, would actually be a good thing. It would mean we have no worries about contaminating the place with human missions. We could be as messy as we like whenver humans finally arrive, safe in the knowledge that we're not destroying irreplaceable unique evidence.

What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind. -- Thomas Hewitt Key, 1799-1875

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