World Bulletin/News Desk
NASA on Friday unveiled plans for its Mars rover Curiosity's first road trip, part of a two-year quest to determine if the planet most like Earth could ever have hosted microbial life, scientists said.
The one-ton nuclear-powered robotic science lab landed in a large crater near Mars' equator on Aug. 6 to search for organic materials and other chemistry considered key to life.
The rover's primary target is Mount Sharp, a mound of layered rock three miles (5 km) high rising from the floor of Gale Crater.
Before beginning the 4.3-mile (7-km) trek to the base of Mount Sharp, a journey expected to take months, the six-wheeled Curiosity will visit a relatively nearby site named "Glenelg," which caught scientists' interest because it includes three types of terrain.
The name was selected from a list of about 100 rock formations in northern Canada. Scientists realized Glenelg was a palindrome -- a word that reads the same backward -- and particularly suited as the name for Curiosity's first destination since the rover will have to come back through the site to head to Mount Sharp.
The road trip to Glenelg depends in part on how well Curiosity cruises through the rest of its instrument checkout. Early next week, the rover will test-fire its powerful laser to pulverize a bit of bedrock uncovered by exhaust from Curiosity's descent engine.
A small telescope will then analyze the vaporized material to determine what minerals it contains.
The combined system, known as Chemistry & Camera, or ChemCam, is designed to make about 14,000 measurements throughout Curiosity's mission, said lead instrument scientist Roger Wiens, with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
"There's a high-power laser that briefly projects several megawatts onto a pinhead-size spot on the surface of Mars," Wiens said. "It creates a plasma, or a little ball of flame or spark."
The telescope, which can observe the flash from up to about 25 feet (7 meters) away, then splits the light into its component wavelengths.
Scientists use that information to determine chemical composition.
Travel to Glenelg, located about 1,600 feet (500 meters) away from Curiosity's landing site, should take a month or longer, depending on how many stops scientists decide to make along the way.
"Probably we'll do a month worth of science there, maybe a little bit more," lead mission scientist John Grotzinger told reporters during a conference call on Friday. "Sometime toward the end of the calendar year, roughly, I would guess then we would turn our sights toward the trek to Mount Sharp."
Facebook will target advertising to Whatsapp users but will steer clear of third party advertising content
The global seed giant Monsanto is pulling its application to introduce GMO cotton seed after a row with the Indian government, which is demanding the company share its technology with local seed companies.
Proxima b could be visited by spacecraft within next 100 years
According to Space X, the rocket “will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating,” and is part of an ongoing effort to reuse rocket parts
Flaming blue fire vortexes could be used to clean up oil spills at sea
$4.8bn Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam prompting fears in Cairo that water could be cut off from downstream Nile nations
Israeli military concerned game could lead to locations and images of military bases being leaked
AG600 developed for use in emergency operations has max cruising speed of 500 km per hour, max flight range of 4,500 km
Vast quantities of rare gas hint at Earth’s past, could power planet’s future
Global temperatures at record highs; Arctic sea ice levels at record lows
23-year-old researcher to create computer models of brain structures in world's largest particle physics laboratory
New mobile game already used by 5 percent of Android users in US
The $180m radio telescope with size of 30 football fields is expected to be operational by September, state media says.
The 41st Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Scientific Assembly will take place between July 30 and August 7 at the Istanbul Congress Center
India launches largest successful satellite mission as it continues focus on space reseach