Curiosity, NASA’s latest Mars rover, has landed on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012 at about 1:30 AM EST. This $2.5 billion mission is of keen interest to both scientists and the general population as it hopes to determine Mars’ habitability and if it ever has or could host life.
As water is a primary component of life, one of the main goals of Curiosity is to learn more about the presence of water on Mars. Thanks to the Mars Odyssey mission in 2002, scientists have already found evidence of icy reservoirs beneath the surface of Mars in its upper latitudes, but with Curiosity NASA aims to discover if there is any liquid water below the planet’s surface.
Based on recent research, scientists say the interior of Mars could hold huge amounts of water reserves and perhaps contain more subsurface water than earth.
“It’s been puzzling why previous estimates for the planet’s interior have been so dry,” co-author Erik Hauri, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said in a statement. “This new research makes sense and suggests that volcanoes may have been the primary vehicle for getting water to the surface.”
According to the NASA website, the rover carried “the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the martian surface. The rover’s onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.”
NASA invited the public to tune into a series of news briefings and live updates on NASA Television as the 2,000 lb, car-size robotic roving laboratory made its descent. Even New York City participated in the historic occasion broadcasting NASA TV’s coverage live in Time Square.