Curiosity’s Search for Organics
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The last time an astrobiology mission landed on Mars, the nation was celebrating the Bicentennial and Gerald Ford was president. In the coming days, the rover Curiosity will land on Mars to begin what is once again an astrobiology mission. By design it won’t involve life-detection – it has neither the tools nor the level of sterilization needed for that – but it was assembled to look for the carbon-based building blocks of Martian life and to explore the possible habitats where life might once have existed.
The main instrument for the rover’s astrobiology research is the gold-plated Sample Analysis on Mars, which includes three complex lab tools and is the largest and heaviest (at 88 pounds) on Curiosity.
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