NASA Mars Rover Curiosity: Watch Live Stream Of Mission Update [VIDEO]
NASA will host a media conference tomorrow at 2:30 P.M. EDT to provide updates about the Mars Science Laboratory mission and the Curiosity rover. (Head here for live coverage of the media conference.)
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The NASA Mars rover is about 10 months into its two-year mission of investigating the area inside of Gale Crater. The goals of the rover are to investigate the climate and geology of the Red Planet, to assess whether Gale Crater was ever favorable for microbial life (and water) and to see whether the planet could be physically explored, and perhaps inhabited, by humans.
By most measures, the Curiosity rover has so far have been a success, and has provided plenty of exciting news to talk about in both water cooler and academic settings. We don't know what they'll talk about at NASA's conference tomorrow, but here are some of the more fascinating Curiosity-related news items to tide you over until then (you can watch it live below).
On a side note, tomorrow's Curiosity media conference coincides with the anniversary of Ray Bradbury's death, whose name was used posthumously for the Curiosity's landing site, Bradbury Landing. Coincidence?
Below, watch NASA's dramatic reenactment of the Mars landing of Curiosity, and then scroll down for a Curiosity roundup as well as the live stream of tomorrow's Curiosity media conference.
A Habitable Environment For Life?
On March 12, the Curiosity rover fulfilled one of its goals when NASA announced that primitive life could have lived on ancient Mars. A rock drilled and photographed by the Curiosity rover showed that "ancient Mars could have supported living microbes," NASA said.
"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."
It wasn't evidence that life existed on Mars, but it was evidence that proved the possibility that Mars once supported life.
Dangerous Radiation Levels
Last week, NASA announced that readings from the craft that carried Curiosity to Mars showed dangerous radiation levels. A single flight to Mars and back would expose an astronaut to two-thirds of what NASA considers the safe lifetime limit. Taking a round-trip from Earth to Mars would be the equivalent of getting a full-body CT scan once a week for a year, and a 5 percent increase in the risk of getting cancer. Before humans could travel to or (potentially) live on Mars, shielding humans from the high levels of space's radiation would be an essential step.
On May 30, an image captured by the Curiosity rover which had a striking resemblance to a rat or lizard on the Martian surface had people talking. UFO watchers and others offered their theories, but the the photograph obviously depicts some sort of rock-and-shade formation that looks (sort of) like a rat.
It's typical human behavior to see objects or shapes as having a face--think of the man in the moon--or resembling a living creature, as the Los Angeles Times noted. "Humans experience a phenomenon known as pareidolia, which is the tendency to distinguish animals, faces or other significant images in otherwise inanimate objects."
An Ancient Martian Riverbed
In one of the most amazing NASA Curiosity discoveries, researchers said that rounded pebbles found on the surface of Mars provide evidence that water once flowed on the planet. The size and shape of the pebbles, eroded by water, indicate that not only was water present on the Red Planet at some point, but that there were likely long streams that flowed on the Martian surface.
The pebbles were discovered in pictures taken by Curiosity, which found densely packed pebbles in several areas. The rocks, which are believed to be two million years old, point to a time when the Martian climate was not as cold and arid as it is now, and may have been able to support a river.
NASA Curiosity rover live stream [live coverage of the conference here]
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