International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s Curiosity Rover celebrates 3000 days on Mars


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Curiosity rover, Martian Day

Mains level: Quest for extraterrestrial life

The Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ has completed 3,000 Martian days.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which region of Mars has a densely packed river deposit indicating this planet had water 3.5 billion years ago?

(a) Aeolis Dorsa

(b) Tharsis

(c) Olympus Mons

(d) Hellas

Curiosity Rover

  • Curiosity is an SUV-sized Mars rover designed to explore the Gale crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission
  • The main mission of Curiosity was “to search areas of Mars for past or present conditions favourable for life, and conditions capable of preserving a record of life.”
  • It has a suite of instruments:
  1. A gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer, a tunable laser spectrometer, X-ray diffraction, fluorescence instrument help study the rocks
  2. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (for close-up pictures) and a Mast Camera (to take photos of the surroundings)
  3. An instrument named ChemCam to vaporize thin layers of Martian rocks.
  4. Radiation Assessment Detector to study the radiation environment at the surface of Mars
  5. Rover Environmental Monitoring Station to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, plus ultraviolet radiation levels
  6. Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument to measure subsurface hydrogen

Back2Basics: Martian Day/ Sol

  • Coincidentally, the duration of a Martian day aka ‘Sol’ is within a few per cent of that of an Earth day, which has led to the use of analogous time units.
  • A sol is slightly longer than an Earth day. It is approximately 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35 seconds long.
  • A Martian year is approximately 668 sols, equivalent to approximately 687 Earth days.
  • Mars has an axial tilt and a rotation period similar to those of Earth.
  • Thus, it experiences seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter much like Earth.

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