Is there life on Mars?

August 7, 2012

In another step forward for space exploration, a two-year mission being carried out by NASA aims to find out whether the Red Planet was ever home to microbial life.  The one-tonne Mars Curiosity rover landed safely on the planet on Sunday for the start of its exploration.

Curiosity rover is equipped with 10 instruments; some of the instruments are described as “the first of their kind on Mars”.  Among the instruments being used will be a laser-firing tool, which can measure the composition of rocks, and a robotic arm attached to the rover will make use of a drill and scoop to gather samples of soil and powdered rock interiors.

The first pictures from the surface of Mars have already been beamed back and there were whoops of joy and relief when the Curiosity rover arrived safely at its destination – a journey which took 36 months.

Commenting on the mission, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, said:

“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future.”

“This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”

This latest mission is one of several to be carried out on and around Mars.  The possibility that the planet could have at one time hosted life is one that fascinates many people, and there are companies out there hoping that one day, in the distant future, they could set up a colony on the planet.

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