Real Mission to Mars

In case you have missed this important event last week…

(Photo note: An image taken by the Mars rover Opportunity, shown by NASA during a press conference Thursday, Oct 7, 2004, shows a bizarre, lumpy rock informally named Wopmay on the lower slopes of Endurance Crater. Scientists believe the lumps in Wopmay were formed by one of two processes. Either they were caused by the impact that created the football field-sized crater, or they arose when water soaking the rock dried up, said the scientists)

(Photo note: The Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), a camera on board the Curiosity designed to take photos during the descent to Mars, took this image of the heat shield plummeting to the Martian surface)

(Photo note: A close-up of one of the rover’s wheels. Curiosity is currently driving around the Gale Crater, a place NASA scientists believe could harbor signs of microbial life, from the past or present)

(All text and images sources and for more images, click here and here. Copyright NASA)

NASA successfully landed the latest of its Mars Rover called Curiosity in Mars last week. With this, they have 3 rovers (Spirit and Opportunity which landed back in 2004) on the planet exploring the surface and geology. The mission’s scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars.

The much-celebrated Mars rover Curiosity is headed for Mount Sharp, where it will help scientists explore the question of life on Mars as it climbs up and up. Meanwhile, however, NASA’s budget for planetary exploration is slated to go down, down, down.

Scientists are basking in the success of Curiosity’s stunning landing earlier this week, proving that a complicated system involving a parachute and a sky crane can safely deliver a 2,000-pound vehicle to Mars. The $2.6 billion Curiosity will spend years roaming the planet, snapping photos and gathering scientific data.

Given the budget constraints facing the space agency, however, there are limits on what the rover, and NASA, will be able to do on the surface of the Red Planet. Although astronauts brought back thousands of moon rocks during the Apollo Mission, there’s never been a sample of Martian material returned to Earth. Such a mission is considered a priority, so scientists can do more detailed chemical analyses.

(Source)

After the Moon, we have been eyeing Mars as the next frontier and a place where humans may be able to adapt as their next home. Who knows what lays thereafter – new mining colonies perhaps or as a “jumping stone” to explore other planets? And inspire future generation of space explorers and scientists to think beyond and ahead. And with 2 rovers on the planet, why we need another rover on the planet?

From Associated Press:-

NASA’s new robot rover named Curiosity landed safely early Monday in a huge crater near the equator of Mars and will soon begin its scientific studies. This marks NASA’s seventh landing on the red planet and is its 19th Mars mission, including those by orbiters and other spacecraft.

Why Mars Again?

The big unknown remains. Scientists want to know if any form of life ever existed there, and that means microscopic organisms. Curiosity is the most ambitious effort ever to burrow into that question, though it is not equipped to look for actual microbes. During its two-year exploration, it will try to answer whether the giant crater had the right conditions to support that type of life.

What will Curiosity do?

Curiosity carries a toolbox of 10 instruments, including a rock-zapping laser and a mobile organic chemistry lab. It also has a long robotic arm that can jackhammer into rocks and soil. It will hunt for the basic ingredients of life, including carbon-based compounds, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and oxygen, as well as minerals that might provide clues about possible energy sources.

And talking about the mission to Mars, if you recalled in 2010, President Obama talked about a manned mission to Mars by year 2030 whilst at the same time, cancelled the project to return to the Moon citing that the project was too costly, “behind schedule, and lacking in innovation”. With the latest successful landing of the Curiosity Rover, it will be interest how this mission to take man to the Red Planet going to take place in the next few years. It is also going to be very interesting how we are going to push the current innovation to make space exploration cheaper, safer and longer lasting.

(Our very own Planetarium Space Theater – it is a good platform to generate keen deep interest on space exploration and science. The other is the Langkawi National Observatory which has good stellar and solar telescopes. Image source: National Planetarium)

Looking back at Malaysia, no doubt we started with the wrong foot with teaching of Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia instead of the more “universal” language of English (we still have a chance to correct this mistake) but it is good that we have also started to expose Malaysians (especially the young ones) on the science of astronomy, mechanical, robotics, computing and others that is crucial for future space explorations. The sight on a greater exploration of the space should be there for all and we should start with the right language of science and mathematics.

P.s. Have a nice weekend and happy holidays to all. Hope that you will miss the madness at the highway and arrive safely at your destination.

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