The twin Mars Rovers Opportunity and Curiosity have both been looking into old riverbeds on the red planet, discovering that flowing water existed in impressive volumes at one point, suggesting that life could well have been sustained in Mars’ history.
A lot of this new information comes from rocks drilled by the more contemporary Curiosity, which found that conditions within the samples could have once supported microbial life. The recently drilled Cumerland rock will be used to verify initial findings from previously drilled and analysed sample, John Klein. Both of these rocks were found within Yellowknife Bay, which NASA now thinks was the end of a river system from many millenia ago.
I can’t help but love the fact that NASA is naming rocks now.
Curiosity’s older and littler borther, Opportunity has been doing similar study with its own toolset. While it doesn’t have a drill or onboard sample analysers, it does have an X-ray spectrometer and an abrasion tool, so has managed to rub away at rocks until it can take pictures and X-ray the interior, which has shown that the Endeavour crater also once had water in it.
I hope NASA built in a Hi5 ability for these Rovers. How else can they earn Science Collaboration Points?
While Curiosity is obviously the more impressive of humanity’s current Mars explorers, Opportunity is a proven survivor. Initially designed to conduct a 90 day mission, it’s been going for over nine years and shows no sign of slowing down.
Kitguru Says: I love these little guys. I hope one day when their time is done we can recover them or at least stick them on a plinth on Mars. They deserve it.