Google+ Mars Travel: November 2012

What Has MSL Curiosity Discovered?

Click for showcased image/post from Mars Travel
On 20 Nov 2012 MSL Curiosity's chief scientist John Grotzinger made a tantalizing announcement. He told NPR that MSL's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument discovered something extremely interesting, claiming that "the data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good." He went on to say that the discovery was made from a soil sample taken by the SAM Instrument. This was most likely one of the five scoop samples taken from Rocknest (imaged right).

But what could it be? 

Could organics have been discovered? Or evidence of past or present life? Such a finding would shake the foundations of not only the scientific community, but of humanity's perception of themselves in the grand scheme of the universe. In a previous post (excerpted below) I delved into why finding life on Mars would be significant and what it would mean for us here on Earth.

Should we find life on Mars, there are two possible scenarios:

Five Scoops at Mars' Rocknest

This image shows the five scoops taken by Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity at Rocknest. This image was taken on 9 Nov 2012, the 93rd Martian day, or sol of MSL's mission. The fifth and last scoop was taken on the same day and is the second from the left in this image. Each scoop is approximately 5cm (2in) wide.

Why were five scoops taken? The first two and part of the third were used to calibrate the inside surfaces of the "sample-handling mechanisms" (NASA). The third, fourth and fifth scoops were analyzed by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) set of instruments, primarily the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument aboard the rover.

Click the image to see the original from NASA/JPL-Caltech

Election Day - Vote For Your Favorite Photo of Mars!

For election day we're going to have a vote! Which Mars photo is your favorite? Let me know through Mars Travel's social media!

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Click the photos to see the original showcased images and Mars Travel posts!

Sunset on Mars
Sojourner Rover at Yogi Rock
Boulders with interesting texture on Low Ridge

Nili Fossae
MSL Curiosity self-portrait at Rocknest

MSL Curiosity Self Portrait - Rocknest

This self-portrait of Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is a masterpiece.

Click to see the high resolution version from NASA! It's worth it!

This image is a mosaic of 55 high resolution images taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) taken on Halloween 2012. In this image the rover is located at Rocknest, the location in Gale Crater where MSL took its first scoop sampling. You can see four markings in front of the rover where MSL scooped the surface.

On the right side of this image you can see the central mound, Mount Sharp rising above the horizon, while in the background on the left you can see the northern wall of Gale Crater. 

Self-portrait images like this one let MSL engineers and mission specialists examine the state of the rover. Understanding the rover's condition will help to extend it's life. This self-portrait technique has been used on other Mars rovers, including Opportunity and Spirit, and helped to increase their life more than tenfold.