August 6, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Curiosity Set to Explore Mars

Having survived its nail-biting entry, descent and landing, the Curiosity rover is ready to roll on Mars.

The excitement in the Mission Support Area at JPL when the signal came down that Curiosity was alive on the surface will be replayed for years to come as one of the great moments in space exploration.  First pictures indicate that the rover is healthy.  Next, there will be a prolonged checkout period before science collection begins in Gale Crater and Mt. Sharp, the central peak.

At the press conference following the historic landing, project manager Pete Theisinger stated that the nominal mission is two years, but the rover was tested for three times nominal but not to failure.  Given that the Opportunity rover is still going strong after 8 years, Curiosity could be exploring Mars for the next decade.

The website for following Curiosity’s progress is mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.  “Curiosity” is the name given to the Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL.

In the delirious celebration of landing, little was said about astrobiology or the search for life up through the first press conference.  That will change.  The press and the scientists are obsessed with finding life on another world.  Curiosity is not able to detect life; at most, it can find conditions for habitability.  We know from experience that the L-word life will appear often in upcoming press releases.  Keep your focus on the data, not on the claims.  Remember that scientific discovery is very different from scientific explanation.  Raw data from distant worlds has usually been discouraging for astrobiologists.  We’ll see if Curiosity keeps that tradition going.

For the moment, this is time to celebrate on a profound achievement of human intelligent design – design rightly attributed by the panelists to the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave people who attempt daring things.  Congratulations to the hundreds of American men and women who participated in making this long-awaited entry, descent and landing a resounding success.

 

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Comments

  • MartyK says:

    I submitted to the Phila Inquirer this comment re: article on the Mars mission:
    How comforting to know that $2.5 billion of our tax dollars are being wasted (sorry, “invested”) to find evidence of life of Mars. The critical clues will be traces of water. And we all know what that means. Just get yourself some carbon (and a few other things) and JUST ADD WATER, and voila, LIFE!
    Silicon is the seventh most abundant element in the universe. The planet Mars apparently has a heavy dose of it. Should NASA then say that Mars has the ingredients for computer chips and laptops, with the intended implication that computer chips and laptops may have self-assembled on Mars in the past, or might in the future?
    “There’s almost unanimous agreement that Mars once had conditions suitable for life as we understand it, he said. If life never arose, he said, scientists will want to know why not.”
    NASA wants to know why life did NOT arise on Mars? As if to say NASA knows why life DID arise on earth? Incredible!
    Then, the finale. This unintentional but damning indictment of the evolutionists and origin-of-lifers and all of junk science: “Anderson said he won’t be disappointed if Curiosity fails to bring us any evidence of past life. “You have to be careful that you don’t confuse what you want to see with what you are seeing.”

    • Editor says:

      MartyK, the Curiosity mission is not primarily about finding life. While it may be discomfiting to hear the scientists use the L-word so often, MSL is a highly-sophisticated robotic machine that will bring us all valuable information about another world — its geology, atmosphere, and radiation environment. We should support scientific discovery that gathers new data; it is much more valuable than rank speculation. Remember that the simplistic speculations of astrobiologists have repeatedly been undermined by raw data gathered from spacecraft.

      Landing a rover on Mars is a highly risky and daring maneuver that required intelligent design by hundreds of people. We can all take pride in what the engineers and designers accomplished. As for taxpayer dollars, it represents a tiny fraction of what the government spends on interest on the national debt every month. It is over the top, therefore, to call this a waste of taxpayer money. You can criticize the fact-free speculation about the origin of life without denigrating the many good people, including some Darwin doubters in high positions, who pulled off this spectacular landing. Let’s give them the applause that they have earned.

  • MartyK says:

    Some may applaud a “HIGHLY RISKY and daring maneuver” that will enable the recording of geologic, atmospheric, and radiation data of a planet we ALREADY had a great deal of info about and ALREADY KNEW was uninhabitable. And this highly risky adventure gave NASA engineers and real scientists (as opposed to “evolutionary” biologists) something to do. Some may even feel that for all this they’re getting a great deal, at only $2.5 billion.

    I will continue to feel such feelings are “over the top.”

  • Shawn says:

    Some major news network already seems to be trying to stir up a buzz about the potential for the new rover to find life on Mars, so there is the liberal media doing what they do best (I think CNN did the story, I only saw it in passing so I can’t be sure).

    This reminds me of when I was a kid and I would read somewhere that water was found on Mars, so there was the potential that it contained bacteria in it and thus life. A kid doesn’t really look at a bit of bacteria and think life, so I never considered it to be a big deal. Now I understand that a bacteria so small as to be invisible to the naked eye is more complex than I ever imagined and I no longer look at these “maybes” and “possiblies” as anything more than wishful thinking.

    I’m so glad I am not that naive child anymore, and I am glad to have CEH as a resource to get articles that analyze the evidence without a Darwinian film of hopeless delusion coated over the evidence. Thanks!

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