Science is cool. No, wait. Science is ULTRA cool and nothing brings out the geek in me more than soaking up the wisdom of scientists and being surrounded by like-minded people. This weekend I’m attending opens in a new window#NASATweetup at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the opens in a new windowMars Science Laboratory (MSL) launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Yeah, it’s days like these when I wonder why I’m not utilizing my earth science degree…
Mars Science Laboratory Will Reach Destination in Nine Months
This post will be short as I have a 4:30 a.m. wake up call [note: okay, post ended up being a bit longer!] but simply put, NASA wowed 149 Twitter users and me today with its parade of scientists and engineers who shared their excitement over Saturday’s scheduled launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying MSL, also known as the Curiosity rover. Not only is the launch exciting but so are the planned activities once the 2,000-pound rover (yeah, that’s as big as a small car, or as Doug McCuistion, director, Mars Exploration program called it, “monster truck of Mars”) reaches the Gale crater on Mars in August 2012.
During its first week on Mars, Ashwin Vasavada, MSL deputy project scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told us Curiosity will take several black and white photos from the front and back of the rover along with a color photograph from a magnifying glass cover. A Mars orbiter will collect data after its second pass following the landing.
Curiosity’s Mission, It Chose to Accept…
I suppose once the rover has its bearings it will dig (pun intended!) into gathering and analyzing samples including monitoring radiation levels, since someday, humans will land on Mars. It will also gather samples of and analyze: air, ice, rocks and measure Martian chemistry to learn how it was formed (just to name a few of its duties).
As explained by McCuistion, MSL “is not a life finding mission but may find some signs of life” with the sample returns.
There are more than 200 scientists associated with MSL. Two hundred! Curiosity will have two extra drill bits, lesson learned from the other Mars rovers (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity) when the bits broke. Additional lessons learned from other rovers: importance of driving around hazards, better understanding of navigating through sand dunes, and how wheels and rovers in work in general.
I Can’t Wrap My Head Around It, Because It’s Just Amazing!
Thinking about what Curiosity may find is just mind blowing. There’s ice on Mars which means water was (or is?) there in some form. Water doesn’t necessarily mean life exists but it’s a pretty good indicator it MAY support life. Think about it. We’re closer to determining whether there was (or is) life on Mars. Whoa! Doesn’t that just give ya chills?
Remember to follow me on opens in a new windowTwitter/jenniferhuber on Saturday for live updates of the rocket launch. The day begins at 6:45 a.m. with an impressive lineup of speakers.
Find additional images over on my opens in a new windowFlickr account.