Mars rover Curiosity: No surprise in 1st soil test
Scientists think the best chance of finding complex carbon is at Mount Sharp, a mountain rising three miles from the center of Gale Crater near the Martian equator. Curiosity won't trek there until early next year. Images from space reveal intriguing layers at the base and many think it's the ideal place to search for carbon.
"The real new science may have to wait until the rover gets to the ancient layered terrain at the base," said University of Arizona senior research scientist Peter Smith, who is not involved in the latest Mars mission.
The Curiosity team has been under pressure to announce a blockbuster find ever since the car-size Curiosity made its dramatic landing in early August using a never-before-tried technique that involved gently being lowered to the ground by cables.
The first month of a two-year mission was dominated by health checkups — a requirement for every interplanetary spacecraft. Since then, it has been on the move, scooping up soil and hunting for its first rock to drill into.
While Curiosity has beamed back stunning panoramas of its surroundings, its major discovery so far is uncovering the remnants of an ancient streambed. Michael Meyer of NASA headquarters called Curiosity a "CSI laboratory on wheels" that has already revealed a lot about its surroundings.
At $2.5 billion, the Curiosity mission is the most expensive yet to Mars, which has been studied by various, less capable rovers and landers. Curiosity totes around high-tech tools designed to explore the Martian surface in unprecedented detail.
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