What a decade of Curiosity has taught us about life on Mars
Experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab welcomed the successful landing of its 4th robot on Mars, The Curiosity rover, 10 yrs ago. It was launched in 2012 to see if life might have ever existed on Mars.
The robot is about the size of a car, and is decked out with scientific instruments used to study the planet's climate and geology.
The team's lead scientist, Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, claims that the mission was a great success. It was likely liveable for millions or 10 of millions of yrs, not only for a brief period in Mars' history.
You can find signs that rivers previously ran along the surface and it's possible that an ocean once existed. Early Mars was thus far more like Earth than it is now, 3 or 4 billion yrs ago.
Rover landed at The Gale Crater where it collided with the planet's surface, creating the hole. It filled with sediment from lakes & layers of dirt that eventually hardened onto slopes of mountains.
"What this meant is that we could land there, and see if that sediment really was deposited within liquid water environments, like lakes and streams," Vasavada said.
"We could read the early history of Mars by driving up these rock layers, and determining whether any of those periods of Mars' time had these habitable conditions."
We've now driven up over 2,000 vertical feet on the mountain, and for the most part, every layer we've looked at formed in a wet environment and had conditions that would have been favourable to life.