Martian developments on Mars and Earth

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  • Published: Nov 21, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: X-ray Spectrometry / Infrared Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Base Peak / Raman / Atomic
thumbnail image: Martian developments on Mars and Earth

While the comet landing has grabbed all the headlines in the last few weeks, the Curiosity rover has been quietly going about its business on the surface of Mars. Having reached its main destination, Mount Sharp, after two years on the planet and a five-mile drive, the rover has completed a reconnaissance of a rocky outcrop and is now beginning to select the rocks to which it will get up close and personal.

The potential targets will be examined closely with a camera and a laser spectrometer to help decide which ones will be drilled. "We have selected targets that we think give us the best chance of answering questions about how the sediments were deposited - in standing water? flowing water? sand blowing in the wind? - and about the composition during deposition and later changes," reported Deputy Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA has appointed a new director for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Jim Watzin will oversee the missions involving the various spacecraft orbiting Mars and the rovers on the surface and will be instrumental in planning the Mars 2020 mission. Based on Curiosity, the 2020 rover will be fitted with upgraded software and new instruments to help reach the main goals: conduct geological assessments of the rover's landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and search for signs of ancient Martian life.

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