August 8th, 2012
07:30 AM ET

5 reasons to be excited about Curiosity

Editor's Note: James Wray is an assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He is a collaborator on the Curiosity science team, affiliated with the Sample Analysis at Mars investigation. His research explores the chemistry, mineralogy and geology of Martian rocks as records of environmental conditions throughout the planet’s history.

NASA’s newest adventure to Mars has begun!

The Mars Science Laboratory mission delivered the Curiosity rover to Gale Crater, and the Internet and Twitterverse are abuzz. But NASA has landed on Mars six times before and has returned more information from the red planet than from all other planets beyond Earth combined.

So what is all the fuss about? Everyone who has learned a little about Curiosity is excited for different reasons; here are a few of my own.

1. The landing system. The rover landed in a complicated process NASA has called “seven minutes of terror.” Even the engineers who planned this unprecedented sequence of maneuvers for reaching the surface admit that "it looks crazy," but it worked! And this is innovation with a purpose.

It started in the upper atmosphere, where the heat shield first began to slow the entering spacecraft. During this phase of their landings, Spirit and Opportunity were just along for the ride, but Curiosity actually steered her way through the upper atmosphere, firing thrusters to adjust course. This allowed much more precise targeting of a landing area only 4 by 12 miles (7 by 20 kilometers) across, roughly one-fifth the size of prior landing ellipses.

Without this landing mechanism, we could not have safely landed in Gale Crater, between its bowl-shaped crater walls and Mount Sharp rising from its center. Guided entry will be critical for future landings in other scientifically rich — but small - areas of Mars.

Another major innovation was the sky crane system for surface delivery. It’s a big change from the airbags that have cushioned the landings of past rovers, but Curiosity is just too heavy for airbags. The sky crane allowed this rover — and, hopefully, future missions — to carry some big, complex science instruments, including those described below.

2. The laser on its head. So, we landed in Gale Crater … now what?

Our Mars orbiters have shown us that some sedimentary layers in Gale have interacted with water in the past, a good first clue in Curiosity’s hunt for habitable environments. But how do we choose which particular rocks to approach on the surface?

Cameras will help, but to find the salt- and clay mineral-rich rocks that directed us to Gale, we need a way to survey composition from a distance. Past missions have shown that many Mars rocks are coated with dust, hiding their true compositions.

The laser on Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument is the perfect tool for blasting through this dust layer to reveal the chemistry of any rock within 25 feet (7 meters) of the rover. Some areas in Gale appear to have thicker dust cover than the alternative sites considered for Curiosity, so ChemCam is especially well-suited for exploring Gale.

3. Definitive mineralogy. Don’t confuse ChemCam with CheMin, another instrument that Curiosity is carrying to Mars for the very first time. While ChemCam will provide a first look at the chemical elements in a rock or soil, CheMin will show how those elements are arranged into minerals. It uses X-ray diffraction, a favorite technique of laboratory mineralogists.

Orbital remote sensing has shown us that some layers in Gale contain clays, but what else do they contain? Are they 50% clay or 5% clay? The answers, which CheMin can deliver, have major implications for the style and duration of water activity that formed the clays. Ditto for the sulfate salts detected from orbit in other layers of Mount Sharp.

4. The search for organic molecules. CheMin is one of two instruments that will analyze samples scooped from the soil or drilled from the rocks of Gale Crater; the other is SAM, short for Sample Analysis at Mars. SAM is a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, the first one sent to Mars since the 1976 Viking landers, and its highest-profile job is to search for organic molecules.

Viking didn’t find any (although this conclusion has recently been questioned), but SAM will heat samples to twice as high a temperature, allowing detection of even the most “stubborn” organics that Viking might have missed. SAM even has some unprecedented “wet chemistry” experiments that could detect still other types of organics. Life on Earth is built almost entirely of organic molecules, but they also rain into planetary atmospheres constantly aboard meteorites and comets.

So if SAM finds no organics, it would imply that something on Mars actively destroys them (or at least has done so sometime since Gale’s sediments were deposited up to 3.6 billion years ago). If organics are found, then studying their properties with SAM may be our first step in moving from “was Mars ever habitable” to “did Mars actually host life?”

5. Settling the methane question. SAM has another component bundled with its gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer: a tunable laser spectrometer. This instrument fills a tube with gas from the Martian atmosphere (or boiled off from drill samples) and bounces a laser beam through it dozens of times, then looks to see how much light the gas has absorbed from the beam.

There are two lasers, and they can be “tuned” to different wavelengths, allowing for different components of the gas to be studied. Methane is one of these. In case you’ve “tuned” out for the past nine years, methane has been reported in the atmosphere of Mars by several research groups, but the claims have all been controversial. It matters because on Earth, roughly 98% of our atmospheric methane is ultimately due to life … and even if Mars had produced it through a non-life mechanism (e.g., volcanic activity), it shouldn’t survive there for more than a few centuries.

So modern methane would imply an active Mars today, exciting no matter what its cause. While it’s possible that Mars’ methane emerges only from places far from Gale Crater, the winds should ultimately blow some of it Curiosity’s way, and SAM’s exquisite sensitivity should allow us to catch a whiff.

More Curiosity news: His other car is on Mars

Post by:
Filed under: Mars
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Kathmandu,Nepal

    Dear Respected scientist working in mars

    I am veru much loved to know if you could make a very bif factory of oxygen plant in mars or in Moon to live there.I think we have to deliver all terroris people into there to save the earth.

    Ram Sharan

    August 26, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  2. Moose Slippers

    A two year trip to Mars by astronauts does not seem to viable right now. Our space vehicles need to make the trip in under thirty days. A round trip of less than ninety days is best to me. I don't see a manned space flight for at least twenty-five years. In the meantime, vehicles like Curiosity can take our place and reveal most of Mars secrets. Who knows if enough of the right rocks are found they might be able to be brought back to.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  3. KEVIN2121961

    I recently learned on the NASA channel that there is water on the moon. I thought that as long as you have water and soil, you can have microbial life? Is it because of the total lack of atmosphere on the moon?

    August 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  4. jas

    "Curiosity actually steered her way through the upper atmosphere..." this machine has a v agina?

    August 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  5. Leftcoastrocky

    Wonder how much last minute duct tape was used on Curiosity?

    August 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  6. Someone in Columbus

    5 reasons – I don't need no 5 reasons – am I going to watch this with great atention or the next few months......and wish I was in astronomy/planetary science.

    August 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  7. gmargolis

    Curiosity’s Landing

    They’re cheering for what their minds made
    up, for that empty sea, dreamed, now seen
    on a room of screens. Standing, as if in

    a stadium, when the ball, in the ninth,
    flies further than it's ever been. Someplace
    out there. Isn’t a dream a space to make

    ourselves up in? To remember, as if
    we had flown outside our earthly thinking?
    From here, their podcast craft is a kind

    of tarantula, they’ve designed to touch
    down like a feather. To see for us. To
    touch what their pads can only call new

    stone, perhaps. To breathe in what its
    sensors hope might be a possible air.
    To feel, even, if there’s love to sense

    n its Roman dust. Love brought back
    almost intact. Not like that ball
    the fans hope to forget was hit

    by an enemy on the other team
    that can’t return into the pitcher’s
    hand, can’t keep some of us from cheering

    God’s human feat, far away, as close
    as where a ball lands on Mars, in Fenway’s
    parking lot.

    Gary Margolis
    Cornwall, VT

    August 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  8. kayaker247

    wouldn't it be ironic if Curiosity found a race of Martian cats and accidently killed them all?

    August 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  9. favoritemartian

    Is it weaponized, in case the martians attack it ??

    August 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      It has a laser.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  10. Richard

    You have to love when someone down plays a significant event in order to make themselves seem cool.

    August 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  11. Planes Walker

    Is there a video camera on this thing? Ok, sure, not much movement going on. But it would be cool to watch as the rover moves along...Would make it feel more like we were there with it.

    August 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • furonfire

      I was thinking about that too. What about audio? Did they stash a mic on this damn rover? Someone should've duct taped an iphone to it.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • low bandwidth is the problem

      The answer to your questions about video and audio is as simple as bandwidth. The bandwidth between Mars and Earth would not support sending audio and video back. This is why the low-res black and white photos come through rather quickly and the hi-res color images dribble in. I would rather have many color images of different subjects that a video of a something that doesn't move take up all of the limited bandwidth.

      Hopefully, someday the bandwidth would be available for audio and video, but more now, I am satisfied with the data and images that are being sent back.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Someone in Columbus

      Video is no big deal – let's face it, video is nothing more than a series of still images that are played back so fast your eye and brain integrates them into continuous motion. It is also more significant if there is something happening in real time that is fast – likely it is pretty still up there.

      The mirophone though is an intriquing idea. Phoenix did have a wind indicator instrument on board. The microphone could give some interesting data while the rover is moving....

      August 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  12. Daniel

    I just wish Mars was more exciting, like the Grand Canyon. I would imagine it would be without water and trees, but it would look great instead of flat surfaces.

    August 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • furonfire

      Mars has the largest canyon in the solar system, Valles Marineris. Maybe it'll rove on over to it after it's main objectives are completed.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Jim

      There is a canyon significantly larger than the grand canyon on Mars. They are just looking a a place that is fairly flat, since moving a robot in the grand canyon remotely would be exceedingly difficult.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
      • Daniel

        Thank for the heads up everyone. Maybe some research and readnig is in order, instead of looking at pictures only. I would love to see that!

        August 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  13. Frank

    Is there any species or combinations of species on Earth that if transported to Mars, would survive?

    August 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jay G

      Humans.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Kevin

      That's a good question. Simple life has been known to live in extreme Earth environments such as the Arctic, crushing depths in the ocean, caves, and even volcanoes. Maybe we could seed Mars with single celled organisms and eventually oxygen producing plant life.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Bryan

      Maybe there are species of life on Mars that we could cultivate here on Earth.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  14. KEVIN2121961

    I was was watching the news conference today at NASA. Guess what? NASA is reverting back to answering reporters questions in a super complicated manner that is above 99.9% of the public's ability to understand. For example a news reporter asked the scientists when we will get better color images and what will they tell us. The scientist answered by only going into detail about spectriums of different light waves and how color images as we see with our own eyes is not important to them. If NASA wishes to get more funding to do great things, these scientists need to think before they speak.

    August 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • n2video

      Kevin, the NASA scietists think more in the span of 1 minute than you are capable of in an entire day.

      August 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
      • KEVIN2121961

        n, that is the problem. 99.9% of us do not understand or could care less about the super specific details presented in a super complicated manner. Anyone who has an advanced degree in anything could go into the super complicated details of their work. But you do not do that to explain to a person that does not have your super detaled and complicated knowledge of the work that you do. A simple example is your own Medical Doctor.

        August 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • sadtosay

      I think the aim for NASA should be getting everyone to do a little more thinking, rather than asking NASA to do less.

      August 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
      • Planes Walker

        Agreed.

        August 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
      • KEVIN2121961

        sad, the aim for NASA is to practice intelligence on how to be endearing and interesting and exciting teachers that understand the their pupils

        August 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
      • Chino

        that might help uncover parts of this myretsy a little more clearly. One of those includes the MAVEN mission to Mars, scheduled for launch in 2013, which will study how Mars’ atmosphere and climate has changed over

        September 11, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • John Lubeck

      Actually, I am on Kevin's side. As far as I can tell, NASA has done an absolutely horrific job at PR for Curiosity. I first came to that conclusion when we saw video of Pasadena jumping up and down in excitement, clearly something went well. But what explanation was given – absolutely none, zero, zilch, zip. There was never an article even following the event that I found that suggested what they knew, why they knew it and when and how they knew it. Just the images of some fantastic scientists looking like clowns.

      Yes, they are great scientists. Does that mean they shouldn't be able to speak in terms that laymen can understand?

      August 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
      • KEVIN2121961

        John, actually NASA did an absolutely BRILLIANT job in the way they explained and SHOWED the Curiosity mission live to the public and they NEED to keep utilizing this type of successful presentation

        August 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
      • Apryll

        By :What’s the Worst Home Price Haircut You’ve Found?“Here’s a fun property: 42905 SE 177th St in North BendSold in August 2003 for $570,000, then sold for the innsae price of $725,000 in April 2007, only to get taken back by the bank in July 2010. Now listed for $410,000.”1. What’s up with the sudden popularity of phrases regarding debt and suffering that include the word “haircut.” 2. A “FUN”property? What exactly is “fun” about this situation. How is an inflated “boom-era” price anything other than merely predictable why is it “innsae?” Please explain. Surely this kind of price history won’t surprise anyone who reads this blog.Did you contact the owner(s) of this property to get their story /stories? If you did, I missed it. Here’s my experience with this kind of “fun.” During the process to sell our home for $95,000 less than we had paid for it about a year previously, no one in my family ever thought they were having “fun.”No one in my family was snickering or wanting to start a contest to see who could come up with the most misery and sadness and grief. There was only a quiet sense of purpose, to pay down the mortgage before the home was sold, and a sense of sadness and loss, then a sense of moving on. No one thought it was “fun” to have their home advertised on the internet and their privacy compromised.OK, go for it fellas. Talk about how stupid you just know people like myself are. Throw in a few statistics and charts and hyperlinks. Talk all about how people like my family have caused all kinds of problems in the housing market even if it isn’t really true.C’mon, give it your best shot. I want to hear some really mean stuff, some wonderful, snarky, repeatable witticisms. Maybe put me in an indefensible position, then laugh at me for exposing my soft stupid underbelly. Bonus points for finding spelling/grammatical posting errors you can pick on.Ho-ho-ho you are so darn erudite and cool!You're not going to hear anything mean or snarky from me. At least this time. There were a lot of perfectly reasonable, intelligent people who bought at or near the peak of the market.Including my sister and my son. For those people who have lost their homes or had to sell at a significant loss, there's real pain involved and lots of stress. It's not a matter of get over it and learn something , it's real people we're talking about. The media was blaring about how the market was different and this rally in home prices was going to go on for a very long time, and a lot of perfectly reasonable intelligent people believed it.

        September 13, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • John Lubeck

      And a second and possibly more important comment. We know that NASA was recently under the direction of a rabidly corrupt Bush appointed Sean Okeefe. Is the lack of information from NASA a sign of the arrogance that often goes with corruption?

      August 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Frank

      Good. That is as it should be. If there's something in the answer that's above you, then you have a homework assignment and the entire Internet at your disposal to help you with it.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
      • KEVIN2121961

        Frank, it is not I who has their job on the line to do research. It is NASA if they cannot explain things to the public WITHOUT expecting the public to do their own research. It is NASA who has their jobs on the line if they are not excellent teachers who understand their pupils

        August 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • jimbo913

      Scientists like Carl Sagan are hard to come by. I know what you mean. But scientists are scientists for a reason, you can't expect awesome PR out of them. Turn to scientists like Brian Cox and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. They will tell you what is going on.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
      • CJEH

        Exactly. Talk to *any* person in a specialized field, from computers, to science, to even something as seemingly 'simple' as writing or linguistics, and you will get to a point where you are just going to have *no* idea what they are talking about, unless you have the educational background to support it. And they are so used to talking in 'their' language, that they forget not everyone gets what they are saying.

        That's why we're freaky lucky to have guys like Neil DeGrassi Tyson & Dr. Michio Kaku who are able to break stuff down into terms the layman can understand.

        August 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Robert

      Big rocket... Pretty parachute... Crawly thing on Mars.... Am I going too fast?

      August 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • McNothing

      OK we will make it real simple for you:

      We dropped the piece of bread on the floor and it landed butter side up.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • jp

      HOW DO YOU 'REVERT BACK'....??

      August 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • dowhatifeellike

      If I understood everything the Curiosity team said, I'd question their intelligence and education. These people are not supposed to be NASA's public face. Let them do their thing and when they have real news to report, someone will translate.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
      • KEVIN2121961

        dow, scientists are a dime a dozen. They may all be super intelligent but that does not mean you should put them on camara willy-nilly. NASA has hundreds of scientists they can put on camara and they need to not only be very picky but train them on WHO their audience and pupils are. NASA did a BRILLIANT job of explaining and showing the Curiosity mission live. NASA NEEDS to continue this method of presenting their work to the public.

        August 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Can Man

      How about you learn to think when you listen:) ... Its complicated because it is very complicated. THat is the dumbed down version

      August 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  15. Chris

    This accomplishment is just another exposure of American potential and human kind in general. We need to do that to have better perspective about universe and our existence here on Earth. It will make us more humane and stronger and capable to deal with what other species could not in the past. Obviously our future will be more than just bunch of fossils.

    August 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Steven Hawking, Ladies' Man

    Fun Fact: When the Sun goes Red Giant and burns the Earth to a crisp, these hunks of metal that we keep hurling into space will be the only perminent artifacts mankind leaves behind.

    August 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jeff

      By that time, who will care?

      August 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
      • Maksida

        RE: OK, I'll bite.I assure you it was not fun for me holnidg back and renting through the boom years, with a kind, reasonable, wife that wanted nothing more than a 1000 square foot roof over her head, whilst I quietly endured coworkers, friends, and even family commenting about how I was throwing my money away' each month and living like a college student', pointing out how foolish I was to allow myself to be priced out forever'. I only quote these phrases to point out that they were literally used in almost every conversation. But I just nodded my head in agreement, knowing that the lunacy was not sustainable. Sorry you made some decisions that blew back at you. I hope you and your family can recover as quickly and painlessly as possible.While I don't know your situation, I do know that many others experienced a serious case of the stupids during the bubble years. Now, you and I are literally paying for their mistakes, in the form of trillions of added national debt and an economy in shambles. I think it is OK to blow off a little steam in regards to this disaster.

        September 13, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • Cason

      In 5 bn years. Sure.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
      • Santiogi

        , there's nothing wrong with wcathing the market, no matter what your involvement. It's the excitement that is the problem because it's not really all that interesting! ;-)Speak for yourself. For me, it was not very interesting as a wanting buyer wcathing prices run up to insane levels and beyond. But it's been a lot of fun wcathing them fall back to earth. Heck, I would settle for them just getting back to historical relationship to the money I work hard for and earn every day. Considering that we are in the worst downturn since the Great Depression, I think that's a reasonable expectation.But what I was saying is you're no different than the person on the flip side who was excited with prices rising. They didn't care that it kept others from buying they only cared that the price change benefited them, and were excited about that. You no seemingly don't care that the falling prices are causing great harm to others, because those changes benefit you.BTW, even before becoming an agent I was arguing that the price change on a house shouldn't really didn't matter much to most people, because you still needed to live in a house. It would only benefit you if you were moving to another area that had gone up less, or were downsizing (e.g. retiring), or were in investor in rental houses. I didn't account for the get out and rent strategy, however.

        September 13, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • furonfire

      We still have plenty of time before the sun roasts us to produce the technology that will allow us to travel to and inhabit another planet/moon/asteroid. I understand that's hard to fathom now... but consider how hard it must've been for people just 100 years ago to fathom sucessfully sending a laser-wielding HD robot to Mars.... or explaining the airplane industry to people 500 years ago. Seemingly ponderous feats have been accomplished in such a small time frame. We just gotta make sure we don't destroy ourselves before we can spread ourselves out to other planets and effectively mitigate ourselves against our own stupidity.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
      • ?concious

        I hope my spirit is able to transcend both the past and present when it leaves this body, because i will want to know how our race conquers the times.

        August 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Highly Motivated

    OK now find a big pile of gold to bring back to earth and make us the richest nation on earth again.

    August 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • me

      If there were a huge stack of gold bricks sitting on our moon it would be to expensive to go get it.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  18. Old Guy

    now it is 7 times we have put trash on another planet. Way to go nasa.

    More trash we will never clean up.

    August 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Hot Carl

      And STILL cleaner than Philadelphia gramps!

      August 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  19. MarsWars

    Curiousity should have a gun to appropropriately represent humanity.

    August 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Jay G

      It has a laser that can burn through stuff. Close enough?

      August 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  20. D.E.Lind

    Curiosity should have a microphone.

    August 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • MarshallM

      A microphone on Mars would only pick up wind noise, and it would be very faint, at that, since Mars' atmosphere is so thin. If I remember correctly, there WAS a microphone planned to be on board a prior landing mission that failed.

      August 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  21. Barnez

    Thank You James Wray

    August 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  22. Barnez

    See where this report is coming from, yea the Smartest City In U.S.A., Atlanta Georgia Tech Georgia, and the other Part of its Brain is Athens Georgia, Georgia Bull Dogs, with the Bees on their Back, all the time.

    August 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jed Clampett

      And peanut farmers. I guess you lost that argument.

      August 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
      • Jim from enterprise al

        Actually jimmy carter was from south georgia those schools are up north and north and south ga are completely differnt like nyc and upstate ny also Dothan Alabama is the peanut capitol of the world

        August 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
      • Big Zeke

        Us southern boys will keep exploring the heavens and you Yankees can keep sucking each others pee pees and occupying parks

        August 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  23. MikeForNewYawk

    So let's say for the 2.6 Billion price tag we discover something GREAT for mankind, will we: use it to make life better, will we sell it to the highest bidders, or are we going to keep doing the same o'l thing until someone else funds this new discovery?

    August 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  24. Laura

    Im so glad this was a success... brought tears to our eyes to see this succeed. My husband is a rocket scientist and worked on curiosity. SCIENCE guys are cool again! wooo!

    August 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Bruno

      Science guys are ALWAYS cool!

      August 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
      • Laura

        Bruno,
        Ive always loved Scientists and "smart guys" in general... I once told my husband how much I loved the color of spring grass and he launched into how my eyes see green so positively and started talking about the light spectrum and where green falls (he even gave me the number on the spectrum scale) ... anyway i was totally lost but loved seeing him go into " big brain" mode! He is the brains between us...

        Such a turn on!

        August 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  25. Mina

    whatever – disgusting waste of taxpayer dollars.
    let's use that money to improve life on earth v. worrying about moving our mess to another planet.
    if we could live on earth you know darn well it will only be made available to the ultra rich or these deemed worthy by gov't (i.e., no physical or mental handicap, breeding age only, specific iq range, etc.).

    August 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Pliny

      Mina!

      You have brought such a new and unique perspective to the debate.

      "A waste of taxpayer dollars".

      Thank you for such original and groundbreaking thinking. You are obviuosly a creative and intelligant person.

      I happily anticipate your next profond utterance.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
      • patrick harris

        Mina,

        Please get educated! You will be much happier, I promise.

        Google or you tube "Dr Neil deGrassee Tyson", he can explain it much better then I. There are billions of reasons to to fund this type of operation We should be spending 10,000 X more on this then we currently do – and much less (or nothing at all) on things like bank bail outs.

        August 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Greenup

      Are you serious... You know Obama's Stimulus money was more then NASA's budget since the company was formed? You really want to complain about a 2.6 billion dollar trip to mars and not the billions sent to Solyndra so they could just go bankrupt. Yes tax payers money is being wasted BUT NOT BY NASA.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
      • patrick harris

        absolutely CORRECT!!!

        Everyone, please google "Dr Neil deGrassee Tyson"

        August 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
      • n2video

        greenup, while your sentiment is in the right place and I do agree with you, your "facts" are off by an order of magnitude. Solyndra's loss was in the range of $5 hundred million, NOT "billions" of dollars. In the future, I suggest actual knowledge of the facts before you post.

        August 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
      • dowhatifeellike

        The defense department currently burns 2.6 billion bucks in about a day... imagine what would happen if we spent that much on science and not war!

        August 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Bruno

      Your ignorance is palpable. You mention problems on Earth. Is education not a problem? Google how Curiosity got her name and read the essay the 10 year old wrote. You will definitely learn something. Might you be aware that schools all over the globe are participating in Curiosity-based science studies? If one student in every state becomes interested in the sciences and turns it into a career later in their life, would that not be cause for excitement?

      You also realize that this project alone created well over 2000 jobs when the US desperately needed jobs?

      Moreover, this "waste of money" cost 2.8 billion. Over TEN YEARS. Punch this into a calculator: 2,800,000,000.00/10. I guarantee there are earmarks that get signed off on that far exceed those figures.

      Curiosity a waste of money: False.
      Mina knows nothing about Curiosity: True.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
      • n2video

        "like" : – )

        August 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • jqent

      Better yet, let's save TRILLIONS of taxpayer dollars (and dollars borrowed from hostile regimes) by stopping our participation in stupid and futile wars on the far side of our own planet. Better a successful $2.5B Mars probe than a failing $3T war in East Rattbaggistan.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Thom

      Mina, I disagree with you 100%. A quest to Mars is something I am more than willing to spend my tax dollars on. Improving life here on Earth is a noble goal but I don't see the government doing a great job of that. Besides, I can't fly to Mars but I can donate my time and money to charities/community building programs to help improve my life and the lives of those in my community.

      August 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      War is a waste of tax payer dollars. This is precisely the type of science that benefits both human knowledge and American industry.

      August 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Amused

      I would have to say that the REAL disgusting waste of tax dollars was spent attempting to provide YOU an education! But, we can ALL see how that failed!

      August 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Brian

      Really Mina? So then it would logically follow that you are against the 70 billion dollars that we waste every year by exempting churches from paying taxes? Somehow I don't think so.

      It's a fact that the Earth is going to be inhabitable one day, and ignorant people such as yourself will be extremely relieved that we spent the money now to give the human race a fighting chance at continued existence.

      August 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • ricktewell

      So, you think that NASA JPL took a bunch of money...went out back behind their buidlings and dug a great big hole and buried the money? Or burned it up in an incinerator? Let's see...they paid thousands of contractors (small businesses with employees, who have families) for all the sub systems. They paid the scientists who worked at Universities who work with thousands of students all across the United States teaching them new skills – some of which might actually better lives here on earth. Your narrow minded way of looking at things is exactly that...narrow minded. You didn't STOP to think for a second that this is a "government program" that works in the best way government programs ever work. What did YOU want the money for? Free housing? Free food? Free health care? Free drugs?

      August 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Frank

      Would you prefer that the $2.5 billion have just been added to the $650 billion defense budget so we could have one more bomber? Or would you prefer that the $2.5 billion have been added to the $50 billion given to GM to bail them out after they drove themselves into bankruptcy by building nothing but big gasoline-consuming trucks so that they could resume doing nothing but building big gasoline-consuming trucks? Please, enlighten us with your superior alternatives.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Frankhy

      Mina, the total cost of the Mars rover is roughly the same as the sum that Americans are spending on popcorn each year. Not popcorn, snacks and soda. Not "any snacks". Just the popcorn. Each year, Americans eat the equivalent of one Mars rover in the form of popcorn.

      You really think the Mars rover, trying to find the answer to the origins of life, whether life exists in the Universe outside Earth, and exploring future options for mankind is the biggest thing to call "wast of money", and get upset about?

      The problem you mention is all worthy causes, but the problem is not that we as a society spend a few measly pennies on science, but that we refuse to give up even a popcorn bucket to help those in need.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • puppypumper

      2.5 Billion for another planet v 15 billion for the Olympics. Yes, lets use money to help things here on earth instead...

      August 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • dowhatifeellike

      This entire mission cost each taxpayer $7. I'm glad I could contribute to such an amazing accomplishment.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
      • dowhatifeellike

        Correction – each American. Still worth it.

        August 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
      • KEVIN2121961

        dow, I was actually shocked that 2.5 billion dollars cost every man, woman and child that much money (7 dollars). It is not only a very, very, very small fraction of our govt. budget, it is actually less money in which many INDIVIDUAL billionairs have in money.

        August 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • jas

      can someone please have Mina aborted retroactively? Please?

      August 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  26. Cast Your Net Wide

    Might as well go to other planets as we can.
    We cant go back to the moon.
    What they found on the dark side scared the crap out of them.

    August 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • todd in DC

      Yup, that's where Pink Floyd hangs out.

      August 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • WVB

      "What they found on the dark side scared the crap out of them."
      What scares the crap out of me is people like you. Any junior high school kid, that actually pays attention in cla-ss, can tell you that there is no "dark side" of the moon, but there is a far side. The far side is fully sunlit when there's a New Moon from the perspective of Earth. There are, however, areas in polar regions that are permanently in the dark. What they discovered there was water ice. That shouldn't scare the crap out of anyone, unless you have hydrophobia or can't ice skate.

      August 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sean

      WVB: You need a new sarcasm detector. Im pretty sure Cast Your Net Wide was just joking..

      August 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  27. Pliny

    There are six reasons to be excited.

    #6: When Curiosity sends back a photo of Dejah Thoris

    August 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  28. CalDude

    If the atmosphere of Mars is ALMOST 100% CO2, doesn't stand to reason that
    they'll find some organic (carbon) material on many of it's rocks and other
    geological samples? ... I mean there must have been some chemical interaction and reaction
    going on between its atmosphere and its physical materials on the surface in the last 5 billion years,
    or however old Mars is. Especially with Mars having volcanos for methane production....

    I'm no scientist but.... I'm just say'n.... :-)

    August 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • ionymous

      I think you're totally right... at least about the "I'm not a scientist" part. :P

      August 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  29. Alan Page

    One negative aspect about this mission is the amount of trash left to deploy Curiosity with chute, sky crane, shields... We not even set our foot there and already started to trash the planet.

    August 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • CalDude

      May be the "trash" is self-vaporizing..... :-)

      August 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • ionymous

      That's like saying your new car is ruined because a spec of gold fell on it. Your car is fine and that gold isn't trash.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • CalDude

        how about a spec of bird poop?...... lol....

        August 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Rick Shultz

      A few small pieces of debris in MILLIONS of square miles is hardly "trashing" the planet. You pick the silliest things to worry about.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • The Truth

      Really? A major scientific achievement has been made and your thoughts drift to trash? In relation to the size of the planet the total footprint we have put on Mars is miniscule and not even worth calculating and that includes all previous missions.

      If you are so concerned about trash how about you set an example and live a trash free life for all the rest of us to emulate.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
      • CalDude

        Right. besides when we colonize Mars we can hire Jose and Eduardo to pick up the trash.....lol....

        August 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Bruno

      Relatively speaking, I GUARANTEE you have littered more in your life than Curiosity will through out hers. That's a really bogus argument.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
      • CalDude

        Come on now, that's not fair to say. Life expectancy of Curiosity is just two years... four years at best....

        August 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • jas

      If they find life on Mars, I wonder if we can eat it.

      August 8, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  30. Justin

    Can't this delivery method be used on a bigger scale for human landings? Instead of 1 single parachute, couldn't they use like 3 chutes as well, to slow descent?

    August 8, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Bruno

      The delivery method is the least of human concerns on the planet for now... We'd also need breathable oxygen, water source, reasonable temps, etc. But to your point, this absolutely paves the way for future manned descent to the planet. If you geek out on this stuff like I do, I'd suggest "A Case for Mars" by Robert Zubrin. Really interesting.

      August 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
      • CalDude

        Bruno. I'm glad you're rally into this stuff, but you're taking this way too seriously.
        Just sit back enjoy the show and see what happens.....

        August 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  31. Sherlock Mandango

    A very brief explanation of why “Curiosity” is a big deal: http://www.cinemabums.com/?p=464

    August 8, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  32. w l jones

    Compare the pebble and soil in center Georgia to that on Mars?

    August 8, 2012 at 8:49 am |

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