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
(c) Olympus Mons
- 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:
- A gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer, a tunable laser spectrometer, X-ray diffraction, fluorescence instrument help study the rocks
- The Mars Hand Lens Imager (for close-up pictures) and a Mast Camera (to take photos of the surroundings)
- An instrument named ChemCam to vaporize thin layers of Martian rocks.
- Radiation Assessment Detector to study the radiation environment at the surface of Mars
- Rover Environmental Monitoring Station to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, plus ultraviolet radiation levels
- 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.