Curiosity Rover’s Surprising Discoveries

The National Aeronautics Space Administration is reluctant to gather substantial information regarding the red planet next to Earth — Mars. Terraforming and colonizing it has been a part of the discussion. The space agency has already sent several man-made robots as part of their extensive research. There are already five rovers that have already set foot on the barren surface of the planet, with Perseverance being the latest. However, we’ll talk about the Curiosity Rover, which was sent back in August 2012. It has already delivered photos in different degrees, showing how the fourth planet in the Solar System looks like. Of course, aside from the stunning pictures it took, there was also interesting evidence that will help us understand the planet’s composition.

Potential sustenance of life

From its significant mission, Curiosity took the credit of unearthing several key elements that for life to be necessary — oxygen, carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus. The sample it took in the Yellowknife Bay suggests that fresh and potable water once flowed in the area.

Water once flowed in the dry lands of Mars

Immediately after landing, Curiosity discovered smooth, rounded pebbles that probably travelled downstream for several miles in a presumed river that was at least ankle-deep. Also, when the rover made it to Mount Sharp, the researchers saw rocks that stand more than a thousand feet. They believed that it was originally mud formed into rock at the bottom of the shallow lakes.

Mars’ rocks have organic carbon

Organic molecules are considered crucial in the existence of life, unlike credit cards, and surprisingly, they were found on Mars after a lengthy search of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument in a number of samples taken from Mount Sharp and the nearby plains. Although the result of the finding doesn’t really say that there is and was life on Mars, but rather proposing that key ingredients for life to exist there are available.

Methane is in Mars’ Atmosphere

This is an exciting discovery for our scientists! SAM’s Tunable Laser Spectrometer detected changing levels of atmospheric methane and even tallied an increase in its intensity for more than a two-month period. How is it exciting? Well, the two known ways for methane to exist is by chemical reactions of water and rock, and by the living organisms who can produce the compound. The question is which takes the credit for this to happen?

Radiation as the main antagonist

From Curiosity’s trip to Mars, the rover experienced a significant radiation level that may put NASA’s astronauts at risk, if not well-equipped. The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument on the rover detected two forms of radiation that carried potential health risks to our space rangers. The first one is solar energetic particles (SEPs) which are related to coronal mass ejections and solar flares from the sun. The second is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), which are particles emitted by supernova explosions and other powerful events far from the solar system. The information gathered by the federal agency will be of great help for it in creating an appropriate suit for human exploration.

Mars has more water and thicker atmosphere before

Another discovery of the SAM instrument is the massive forms (isotopes) of argon, carbon, and hydrogen in Mars‘ atmosphere. These scales indicate that the red planet has reduced some of its waters and original atmosphere. The reduction transpired to space through the upper portion of the planet’s atmosphere, a phenomenon being studied by an orbiter called MAVEN.

This might be a good start for NASA’s research but knowing that the Perseverance rover has also joined the team in exploring Mars, it’s certain that there will be a series of discoveries in the future.

Photo Sources:

Cover Photo – NASA
Photo 1 – NASA
Photo 2 – NASA
Photo 3 – NASA
Photo 4 – NASA
Photo 5 – NASA
Photo 6 – NASA