Thursday, October 17, 2013

NASA Announcement Live: Did the Curiosity Rover Find Evidence Of Life On Mars?

3 Things Curiosity Found About Mars That Make the Red Planet Habitable

Acidity: Boring into Mars rock, Curiosity discovered that the sedimentary rock under study had a relatively stable and moderate pH. Many microorganisms cannot survive in extremely acidic environments; one NASA scientist described the Mars rock thusly: "This rock looks like a typical rock you'd find on Earth."
Water Activity: Scientists discovered clear indications of large-scale water activity on Mars, enough to potentially prevent cellular osmosis (cell death from not enough water) from occurring. This indicates that Mars could potentially
Mineral Content: Some of the sample was discovered to possess a negative charge with various oxidation states. A NASA scientist described this kind of rock as essentially similar to a battery; some microorganisms could derive energy from that kind of low-level electrical charge.
To paraphrase Carl Weathers in Arrested Development:
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. There's still plenty of water in that rock. Now you take this rock home, throw it in a pot, add some stable pH, a mineral charge. Baby, you've got a primordial stew going."

Mars Rover Finds "All the Prerequisites For Life — a Habitable Environment"

Curiosity has found discovered that Mars possesses conditions that could have supported ancient — and future — life, announced NASA scientists during a press conference Tuesday.
"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."
Reportedly, the sample taken from the sedimentary rock targeted by Curiosity contains sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon, all key ingredients for life. One NASA scientist referred to the findings as "really something special," as well as containing up to 20% clay  which is formed by the reaction of relatively fresh water with igneous materials.
Additonally, scientists discovered a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals capable of supporting an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth require for survival.
"The range of chemical ingredients we have identified in the sample is impressive, and it suggests pairings such as sulfates and sulfides that indicate a possible chemical energy source for micro-organisms," said Paul Mahaffy, a NASA official.

What is the Mars Curiosity Rover and What is Its Mission?

Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars, part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission.
The rover's goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration (!).
Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012.
Curiosity's design will serve as the basis for a planned unnamed 2020 Mars rover mission.
In December 2012, Curiosity's two-year mission was extended indefinitely.

On February 28, NASA was forced to switch to the backup computer due to an issue with the then active computer's flash memory which resulted in the computer continuously rebooting in a loop. The backup computer was turned on in Safe mode and subsequently returned to active status on March 4. The rover is expected to resume full operations some time next week

NASA Mars Press Conference LIVE Stream: Watch Mars Rover Announcement

What's inside the first sample of rock powder collected from Mars by the Curiosity rover? Several scientists from NASA will give a press conference at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the findings from the Curiosity rover.
NASA officials said the Tuesday press conference will "discuss the Curiosity rover's analysis of the first sample of rock powder ever collected on Mars."
A live stream to the event can be found here:

Live video from your Android device on Ustream 
Curiosity drilled into a Mars rock for the first time on Feb. 8 using a percussive drill tool mounted to its robotic arm. The rover drilled a 2.5-inch hole into a flat Mars rock called "John Klein," named after a NASA Curiosity rover project manager who died in 2011.
The first sample drilling on Mars revealed an odd, gray interior of Martian rock that stood out in stark contrast to the rust-hewed orange-red of the planet's surface. Curiosity scooped up a sample of the gray rock powder and placed it inside two onboard labs.
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed on the Red Planet on Aug. 5 to begin a two-year primary mission aimed at determining if the planet is now, or could ever have been, capable of supporting primitive life. The $2.5 billion Curiosity is about the size of a car, making it the largest rover ever to explore Mars. It carries 10 different science instruments to study the Red Planet in unprecedented detail.
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NASA Announcement Live: Did the Curiosity Rover Find Evidence Of Life On Mars?

One month ago, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover drilled into the Martian surface, scooping up the first-ever sample of Mars rock. A series of experiments utilizing no-doubt-intricate onboard scientific instruments followed, and blammo, Curiosity's sent back a bunch of data on Martian rock.
The rover team, gathered at NASA headquarters, is expected to announce the mineral and chemical composition of what exactly they found during a live press conference beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Could they have found evidence of life on Mars? Or has the Red Planet always been as dead as it is now? Who knows. That curious little metal scamp rolling around the Martian surface is the only one with all the answers.
We do have one big hint: the ancient streambed that Curiosity drove through to find the right rock.

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