The Journey Into Another World and What It May Mean for Us: Where Our Curiosity Takes Us
So, as one band across the pond once sang, it’s finally happened: following 10 years of exploring, the famous NASA’s Mars vehicle, the quite aptly named Curiosity rover, got to the part of the planet which poses the most interest for the researchers. This area of Mars, dominated by what is called Mount Sharp – the central summit of the Gale crater – contains a particularly high concentration of salt (the mountain itself is full of salt-rich minerals). And, according to analysts, it also holds most of the secrets regarding the past weather of the Red Star (which, as even lay people now know, wasn’t always as dry, empty and frostbitten as it is now).
And that is where it becomes truly interesting – and quite relevant, mind – not just in academic terms. Because the current scientific consensus is that in the aforesaid past, before any of us Earthlings had a chance to get a glimpse of Martian terrain, the climate there was not all that different from ours. Which means that finding out what made it change so badly that the entire planet turned into the current barren wasteland is hardly a matter of simple curiosity (pun intended, but they really asked for it). As far away as we are from Mars (at least until a new breakthrough in space travel comes up), the laws of nature apply everywhere, and learning from others’ experiences (including that of other worlds) is much better than using our own mistakes as a learning kit. Especially considering that this particular mistake would not only be costly, but may well prove to be literally fatal. In other words, now the topic of this research may be not so much whether there is (or ever was) any life on Mars, but more how to avoid the situation where there will be no life left right here.
And yes, this presumed catastrophe that happened there, happened millions of kilometers away from us, aeons ago. But we may not have that much time.
So it’s a little wonder that NASA started to prepare this expedition immediately after Curiosity’s predecessor, the Orbiter, spotted the unusually large amount of salt in that area of Mars and the scientists concluded that it came about as a result of large-scale drainage of Mars’ water reservoirs. Taking into account what is at stake, this mission really does seem worth the risks it poses for the valiant Curiosity. (And those are very serious indeed: the researchers point out that, on top of razor-sharp stones, threatening the device’s wheels, the shifting sands can also interfere with its progress or even stop it completely, so all hope rests only on the rover’s sophisticated motion sensors. Then, there is incredible sharpness of the probed rocks to consider: even the most “drillable” of them, christened Caniama, still may damage the Curiosity’s drilling arm, as the mission manager, Ms Zamora-Garcia, admits).
For it is not only about theories (important as they are) and strikingly beautiful out-of-our-world vistas (though these Mars dunes, indeed, do look amazing, desert or no desert).
It is, plain and simple, the matter of our very existence.
- Mars Curiosity Rover – NASA’s Mars Exploration Program
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Voyage of Curiosity: A Martian Chronicle 4k [Video]
Video uploaded by SpaceRip on November 18, 2020