Just a few weeks ago, NASA successfully landed the rover Curiosity inside the huge Gale Crater on the surface of Mars. Tons of people around the world tuned in to watch a video feed of the risky landing operation on August 6th– enough to crash NASA’s website. The rover has already sent back some seriously cool images of the Martian landscape, but Curiosity’s main mission is to deliver some groundbreaking data to help answer the question that has captivated Earthlings for so long: is there life on Mars? Or was there life on Mars at some point in the planet’s past? Could there be life on Mars in the future?
Curiosity is a nuclear-powered, car-sized vehicle decked out with all sorts of high-tech gear to help gather data on the Red Planet. It’s got cameras, a particle detector, a portable weather station, and even a laser that vaporizes rocks. The rover will be hanging out on Mars for about two years, scoping out the Martian landscape, collecting geological samples, analyzing the weather, and ultimately climbing a three-mile-high mountain known as Mt. Sharp. As the rover roves around, it will gather the info scientists need to figure out if the planet has what it takes to support life.
This week, Curiosity made history by transmitting a recorded human voice from Earth to Mars and back again. As if that wasn’t cool enough, the rover also played back a brand new song by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas called “Reach for the Stars.” Curiosity even has it’s own Twitter feed to document its fascinating life on Mars, so stay tuned and don’t miss out on science history. It’s a cool time to be alive.