(Web Desk) – Mars looks like a dusty, dead, dry, boring planet. But science says otherwise. Science says Mars was humid and warm, with an atmosphere. And science says it has been moist and warm for billions of years, just long enough to give life and develop.
But we still are not sure if life took place there.
The scientific efforts to understand Mars and its old habitability have really increased in recent years. After Spirit and Opportunity disappear, MSL Curiosity carries the workload. (NASA's InSight Lander is also on Mars, but does not seek livelihood or life.)
HiRise has captured the weird texture of Gale Crater Soil [1
Christopher House is Professor of Earth Sciences at Penn State University. He is also a participating scientist at NASA's Mars Science Laboratory. In a Penn State University press release, House talked about the MSL mission and what it's like to be part of the groundbreaking mission daily.
"The Gale Crater seems to have been a marine environment," House said, adding that the mission in the crater had found a lot of fine-grained mud.
Simulated picture of Mar's Gale Crater Lake
"The water would have lasted a million years or more."
The Gale Crater was chosen as a destination for curiosity because it is a complex place. It was not just a lake bed, which means that there are minerals that can give evidence of the habitability of Mars, but this lake was eventually filled with sediments.
This sediment turned to stone, which then eroded. It is the same process that created the mountain. Sharp, the mountain in the middle of Gale Crater and another fascinating object of curiosity.
"But the entire system, including the groundwater that ran through it, lasted much longer, maybe even a billion or more years," he said.
The base of Mount Sharp
"There are sulfate-filled fractions, indicating that water ran through these rocks much later, after the planet stopped producing lakes had formed. "
House works with The Sample Analysis of the Mars Science Laboratory on Mars (SAM) and the sedimentology and stratigraphy teams. The SAM team uses an instrument that heats rock samples and a mass spectrometer to measure the molecules released from the heated samples. The mass of molecules helps the researchers to identify the type of gases released.
House and other scientists are particularly interested in sulfur gases from sulphate and sulphide minerals, as reduced sulfur minerals such as pyrite, the most abundant sulphide mineral, would indicate that the environment could have supported life in the past. This is partly because pyrite requires the presence of organic substances to form in the sediment.
Sampling of curiosity near the base of Mount Sharp
House serves as head of the sedimentology and stratigraphy team. As the name implies, the team explores rock layers on the surface of Mars to understand the environment in which they formed. House is also involved in the tactical planning of the Rover.
House conducts a daily conference call several times a month with scientists around the world planning the operations of Curiosity for the next day on Mars.
"It was fun to be involved in daily operations, to make decisions on where to take a measurement or where to drive, or whether we should have a specific priority. Measuring over another measurement given the limited amount of time Surface, "House said.
Curious strike over 1717 days in 2017
"Each day is limited by the Rover's performance and Rover's power requirements, and it has been a great learning experience for the way it works and Mission Performance A great opportunity to work with scientists from all over the world. "
Although it seems to be slow for us public observers, the pace of Curiosity's daily work is fast and detailed.
According to House, we live in a golden age of planetary science, and it's both intoxicating and confusing.
"Each time we drive, we awaken to a whole new field of vision with new rocks and new questions," he said.
] "It's a kind of whole new world every time you move, and so many times you still think about the questions that came up months ago, but you have to deal with it being a whole new one There is landscape, and you must do the science of this day. "
Rounded pebbles have retained their shape after rolling around the Gale Crater in a long time ago.
For House, Mars is a fascinating world from which we have already learned a lot. Mars is still a dynamic place, and we already know that it was probably habitable in the past.
"Missions like this have shown livable environments on Mars in the past," House said.
"Missions have also shown Mars continues to be an active world with potential methane releases and geology, including volcanic eruptions, in the not too distant past. There is definitely great interest in Mars as a dynamic terrestrial world, which is not so much of our earth is different than some other worlds in our solar system. "
House is right. Although Mars seems dry, desolate, cold and lifeless, it is much more Earth-like than other worlds in the Solar System. Venus is a hellhole, Jupiter is a gigantic radioactive gas ball, other planets and moons are freezing cold, dead places far from sunlight, and Mercury is just … Mercury.
Curiosity and all the work on it is continually expanding our scientific understanding of Mars. As early as 2014, the rover detected methane peaks, which are often associated with organic processes. Also in 2014 organic carbon compounds were found.
In 2013, the Rover also found evidence of an ancient river bed on Mars, proving that in the past, water was definitely flowing on the surface.
MSL Curiosity is still fine since landing on Mars in August 2012. The original mission length was set at 687 days, but after more than 2500 days.
MSL has already betrayed much about Mars and will continue until its thermoelectric radioisotope generator has run out of power. Everything else we learn from his mission is gravy.
This article was originally published by Universe Today.