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One of the landing sites, the Meridiani Plateau, has minerals commonly associated with water. The other, the giant Gusev Crater, halfway around Mars, may have once held a lake. Scientists think the lake was fed by water flowing through a massive channel. What it looks like is that water ponded in that crater, and should have deposited lake deposits, water lane deposits.

And for us on Mars, that's, for Mars scientists, that's a gold mine. If we can find water-lane sediments, that would be an important find. The rovers themselves are solar-powered, mobile geologists. Each is a pound, six-wheeled lab, loaded with gear designed to photograph, collect, analyze, and grind Martian rocks.

Rick Welch, the flight system chief engineer, helped design the rovers. During the missions, navigators on earth will be guided by panoramic images the rovers transmit. Those cameras can be used for all of our big science panoramas, and there are four cameras that are up there. They're in stereo pairs. Just like a human eye has two, to be able to determine range to objects, there are two science cameras, which have filter wheels in front of them that provide the color imagery for geology. And then the ones nearer to the center of the mast, the navigation cameras, they have a wider field of view and are better for planning our mobility and traverses on Mars.

Cameras mounted on the front and back are also used for driving. Crisp, who is geologist, says the robots are designed to operate much as human field researchers do. And there are things like, on the end of the robotic arms, there's a microscopic imager which is like a hand lens, which is like a hand lens that a geologist uses. So when I'm out in the field, I usually will take a rock hammer with me and crack open a rock to get a fresh look at the interior, because you can see the mineral shapes and textures better that way, and then look at it close up.

And you can identify, oftentimes, you can identify minerals that way. On the rover, we have a rock abrasion tool on the end of the robotic arm. And that is like a rock hammer, so it gets us inside the rock, about a half a centimeter, grinds away the outer part of the rock, and gets at that interior, and then we can look at it with a microscopic imager. There are also chemical analyzers and mineralogical analyzers on the end of that robotic arm that tell us what minerals are present and in what amounts. The rovers are programmed to move slowly and cautiously, during what engineers hope will be day life spans.

Destination Mars

When it's doing autonomous navigation, because it has to take images and actually sense the terrain and actually determine whether there's a hazard out there, it will actually take up to a minute to determine whether it's safe to take its next step, and then it moves in small steps just like the Sojourner rover did on Mars.

So, actually, in a given day, we probably won't drive more than, say, 20 or 30 meters in a given day. And that makes for the total mission that we may get several hundred meters away from the landing site. Despite enthusiasm for the latest Mars expedition, there are some in the space community who say NASA could be doing even better planning. There are calls to make the U. We should be headed toward doing robotic outposts at Mars, to building the infrastructure necessary to support human missions.

Louis Friedman is executive director of the Planetary Society, an international organization that promotes space exploration and research. For example, a goal on this very Mars mission, or at least the next one, could be the survey of two, and selection of two or three candidate landing sites for humans on Mars. And that, then we could begin to choose those places, based on scientific and technical considerations.


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But NASA's mission is more modest. The space agency has no stated goal of landing humans on Mars. One reason for caution, says Naderi, is the mixed record of Mars missions. Two-thirds of the missions that we have sent to Mars, have not been successful, so the batting average is only about a third; good in baseball, but not good in planetary system.

Difficult or not, Mars is turning out to be a popular destination. NASA currently has two orbiters mapping the planet, and plans at least four more Mars missions over the next eight years. In addition, a Japanese orbiter should reach Mars in January. Support Provided By: Learn more. Watch Nov 08 Shields and Brooks on public impeachment hearings, Kentucky election results.

Nation Nov World Nov Politics Nov So we're looking for life, and it's difficult, you know, to just stumble on it, so you look for water as a proxy for life. The grand strategy for Mars exploration … we call it "follow the water. Water is a condition for life as we know it.

Many scientists believe that what is now a dry, dusty planet was once very wet.

Exhibitions

One of the landing sites, the Meridiani Plateau, has minerals commonly associated with water. The other, the giant Gusev Crater, halfway around Mars, may have once held a lake. Scientists think the lake was fed by water flowing through a massive channel. What it looks like is that water ponded in that crater, and should have deposited lake deposits, water lane deposits.

And for us on Mars, that's, for Mars scientists, that's a gold mine. If we can find water-lane sediments, that would be an important find.

'Destination: Mars' Virtual Reality Experience Now Open at Kennedy Space Center

The rovers themselves are solar-powered, mobile geologists. Each is a pound, six-wheeled lab, loaded with gear designed to photograph, collect, analyze, and grind Martian rocks. Rick Welch, the flight system chief engineer, helped design the rovers. During the missions, navigators on earth will be guided by panoramic images the rovers transmit. Those cameras can be used for all of our big science panoramas, and there are four cameras that are up there. They're in stereo pairs. Just like a human eye has two, to be able to determine range to objects, there are two science cameras, which have filter wheels in front of them that provide the color imagery for geology.

And then the ones nearer to the center of the mast, the navigation cameras, they have a wider field of view and are better for planning our mobility and traverses on Mars. Cameras mounted on the front and back are also used for driving. Crisp, who is geologist, says the robots are designed to operate much as human field researchers do.

And there are things like, on the end of the robotic arms, there's a microscopic imager which is like a hand lens, which is like a hand lens that a geologist uses. So when I'm out in the field, I usually will take a rock hammer with me and crack open a rock to get a fresh look at the interior, because you can see the mineral shapes and textures better that way, and then look at it close up. And you can identify, oftentimes, you can identify minerals that way.

Destination Mars | Science News for Students

On the rover, we have a rock abrasion tool on the end of the robotic arm. And that is like a rock hammer, so it gets us inside the rock, about a half a centimeter, grinds away the outer part of the rock, and gets at that interior, and then we can look at it with a microscopic imager.

There are also chemical analyzers and mineralogical analyzers on the end of that robotic arm that tell us what minerals are present and in what amounts. The rovers are programmed to move slowly and cautiously, during what engineers hope will be day life spans. When it's doing autonomous navigation, because it has to take images and actually sense the terrain and actually determine whether there's a hazard out there, it will actually take up to a minute to determine whether it's safe to take its next step, and then it moves in small steps just like the Sojourner rover did on Mars.

So, actually, in a given day, we probably won't drive more than, say, 20 or 30 meters in a given day. And that makes for the total mission that we may get several hundred meters away from the landing site. Despite enthusiasm for the latest Mars expedition, there are some in the space community who say NASA could be doing even better planning. There are calls to make the U. We should be headed toward doing robotic outposts at Mars, to building the infrastructure necessary to support human missions.

Louis Friedman is executive director of the Planetary Society, an international organization that promotes space exploration and research. For example, a goal on this very Mars mission, or at least the next one, could be the survey of two, and selection of two or three candidate landing sites for humans on Mars.

And that, then we could begin to choose those places, based on scientific and technical considerations. But NASA's mission is more modest. The space agency has no stated goal of landing humans on Mars.