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Mars Space Science

Mars Rover Begins "Whole New Mission" 93

sighted writes "NASA reports that the seemingly-unstoppable robotic geologist Opportunity is finding things at Endeavour crater that it has never seen before, adding new life to a mission that has already been epic. Observations 'suggest that rock exposures on Endeavour's rim date from early in Martian history and include clay minerals that form in less-acidic wet conditions, possibly more favorable for life.' In a teleconference today, one mission scientist compared this new phase of exploration to a 'whole new mission.'"
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Mars Rover Begins "Whole New Mission"

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  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:33PM (#37281250) Homepage

    Unfortunately Opportunity is not well-equipped for actually checking for life and so even if it does encounter life (which is unlikely) we'd have at best circumstantial evidence for it. The Viking tests of Martian soil [] didn't seem to give any signs of life but they did result in chemistry which we still don't fully understand what was happening. This in general makes further tests for life to be difficult since we don't fully understand the non-organic behavior (although one thing that Viking found was a lot less organic material than was expected. That's still not fully understood.).

    The follow-up to Opportunity is going to be the Curiosity rover. Curiosity is about the size of a large car and will have a lot of different equipment. That should be launched by the end of this year. If Curiosity lands successfully (it is much larger than other things we've tried to land on Mars before and there's some new tech in the landing method) it will blow Opportunity and Spirit away in terms of the number of experiments it can do and a lot of other things. For example, Curiosity can simply move a lot faster than any other rover we have put on Mars. This means that when it is in a less interesting spot it will be able to go somewhere more interesting in days or hours rather than in weeks or months.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @08:43PM (#37281722)

    I was part of Viking, and it is not correct to say that "Viking tests of Martian soil didn't seem to give any signs of life." The protocols and expected results were published before the mission, and all 6 (3 tests each on 2 spacecraft) passed at the one bit level (i.e., some of the details were not what was expected, but at the "we do X and Y happens" level, they all passed). What didn't "pass" was the mass spectrometer, which didn't reveal any organics.

    Funny thing was, the mass spec was listed as one of the tests of life before the mission.

    Now, they think that perchlorates may have removed all of the organics when the samples were heated for the mass spec. Oh well.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN