Goals: NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission set down a large, mobile laboratory – the rover Curiosity – using precision landing technology that makes many of Mars’ most intriguing regions viable destinations for the first time.
During a 23 month prime mission, Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover. Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.
Accomplishments: The technology test was a success. The rover was delivered safely to the surface of Mars and immediately began sending back stunning images and science. The top findings after a year on Mars:
- Ancient Mars could have the right chemistry to be a suitable home for life.
- The rover found evidence of an ancient streambed where water once flowed knee-deep.
- During the trip to Mars, the mission found radiation levels that could pose health risks to astronauts.
- Curiosity found no evidence of methane in the Martian air. Methane could be a sign of life. The search continues.
- The landing site was rich in different environments, all clues to Mars’ watery past.