In later half of 2011, NASA had launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) with the aim to land and operate a rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on Mars at Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. Curiosity will attempt a more precise landing than attempted previously and then help assess Mars’s habitability. A primary mission objective is to determine whether Mars is or has ever been an environment able to support life, though it will not look for any specific type of life. Rather, it is intended to chemically analyse samples in various ways, including scooping up soil, drill rocks, and with a laser and sensor system.
MSL is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology for NASA. The total cost of the MSL project is about US$2.5 billion. The mission is designed to last a full Mars year (687 Earth days) or longer. Mars Science Lab, nicknamed Curiosity, is NASA’s first astrobiology mission at Mars since the 1970s-era Viking probes.
What is the Methane Mystery of Mars?
The scientists have been puzzled over what could be producing methane gas detected in the thin Martian air. Methane molecules are easily blown apart by ultraviolet light from the Sun, so any methane around must have been released recently. The creatures, including a class of micro-organisms that live without oxygen, also produce methane, and this is something arousing curiosity in scientists. The ‘Curiosity Rover’ carries an instrument that can detect methane in the air, and if it does, it will unleash new excitement about prospect of life on Mars.