Incredible before and after images of NASA’s Curiosity rover reveal the impact of seven years roaming the Red Planet
- Pictures show how Mars has been treating NASA’s Curiosity rover
- The images show seven years of wear and tear from the Red Planet
- Curiosity still churns out data for NASA despite its initial two-year life estimation
More than seven years on Mars have not been kind to NASA’s Curiosity rover.
In images that surfaced online this week via the file-hosting site, Imgur, the rover’s journey through Mars’ formidable landscape is laid bare.
One the left side is an image taken shortly after Curiosity landed on Mars while the right shows a snapshot from October, which is more than seven years later.
In the image on the left, Curiosity is shown in its nascence on Mars, without a scratch on it while the image to the right, which snapped in October, shows the rover now
The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Florida on November 26, 2011.
After embarking on a 350 million mile journey, the $2.5 billion research vehicle touched down only 1.5 miles away from the earmarked landing spot.
After a successful landing on August 6th, 2012, the rover has traveled about 11 miles
It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and the rover constituted 23 percent of the mass of the total mission.
With 180 lbs of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 1,982 lbs and is powered by a plutonium fuel source.
The rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars.
Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 2,500 days.
Mars’ Curiosity continues to conduct science experiments on Mars despite an initial two-year estimated life span
The rover has several scientific instruments on board, including the mastcam which consists of two cameras and can take high-resolution images and videos in real color.
So far on the journey of the car-sized robot it has encountered an ancient streambed where liquid water used to flow, not long after it also discovered that billions of years ago, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.
WHAT EVIDENCE DO SCIENTISTS HAVE FOR LIFE ON MARS?
The search for life on other planets has captivated mankind for decades.
But the reality could be a little less like the Hollywood blockbusters, scientists have revealed.
They say if there was life on the red planet, it probably will present itself as fossilized bacteria – and have proposed a new way to look for it.
Here are the most promising signs of life so far –
When looking for life on Mars, experts agree that water is key.
Although the planet is now rocky and barren with water locked up in polar ice caps there could have been water in the past.
In 2000, scientists first spotted evidence for the existence of water on Mars.
The Nasa Mars Global Surveyor found gullies that could have been created by flowing water.
The debate is ongoing as to whether these recurring slope lineae (RSL) could have been formed from water flow.
Earth has been hit by 34 meteorites from Mars, three of which are believed to have the potential to carry evidence of past life on the planet, writes Space.com.
In 1996, experts found a meteorite in Antarctica known as ALH 84001 that contained fossilised bacteria-like formations.
However, in 2012, experts concluded that this organic material had been formed by volcanic activity without the involvement of life.
Signs of Life
The first close-ups of the planet were taken by the 1964 Mariner 4 mission.
These initial images showed that Mars has landforms that could have been formed when the climate was much wetter and therefore home to life.
In 1975, the first Viking orbiter was launched and although inconclusive it paved the way for other landers.
Many rovers, orbiters and landers have now revealed evidence of water beneath the crust and even occasional precipitation.
Earlier this year, Nasa’s Curiosity rover found potential building blocks of life in an ancient Martian lakebed.
The organic molecules preserved in 3.5 billion-year-old bedrock in Gale Crater — believed to have once contained a shallow lake the size of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee — suggest conditions back then may have been conducive to life.
Future missions to Mars plan on bringing samples back to Earth to test them more thoroughly.
In 2018, Curiosity also confirmed sharp seasonal increases of methane in the Martian atmosphere.
Experts said the methane observations provide ‘one of the most compelling’ cases for present-day life.
Curiosity’s methane measurements occurred over four-and-a-half Earth years, covering parts of three Martian years.
Seasonal peaks were detected in late summer in the northern hemisphere and late winter in the southern hemisphere.
The magnitude of these seasonal peaks – by a factor of three – was far more than scientists expected.
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