Mars Is The Place To Look This Coming Week
Science geeks have it made this coming week as a truly impressive show is about to start.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory and its Curiosity rover are set to land shortly after 1 a.m. ET Monday on the most advanced, most ambitious and most adventurous mission ever sent to the Red Planet.
This mission is all about what planetary scientists call habitability. Scientists are trying to determine whether Mars ever harbored all the ingredients key to the formation of life.
Liquid water, energy such as sunlight and “organics” — carbon compounds — are the fundamental ingredients of all life on Earth.
NASA’s Martian orbiters and surface rovers over the past 15 years have beamed back ample evidence that Mars once was warmer and wetter — a place that could have been hospitable to the formation of primitive life.
Still elusive: conclusive proof of carbon compounds in Martian rocks or soil.
What’s more, evidence of organic matter is not a slam-dunk score.
“The real question is: Were those organics produced by life? Are they biological in origin?” says Matt Golombek, a landing site scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.
“There are lots of organics produced without life whatsoever,” he says.