NASA Describes Mars Mission Goals
November 11, 2011 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.
GREENBELT, Md., Nov. 11 (UPI) — One of the mission goals of NASA’s next Mars rover, set to launch Nov. 25, will be to search for the possibility of life on the planet, the space agency said.
However, it’s the ingredients of life, not life itself, which will be the target of the scientific search by the Curiosity rover, a NASA official said.
“This mission will bridge the gap scientifically from our understanding of the planet being warmer and wetter than we probably believed, to not seeking life itself, but seeking signs of life,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars program for NASA.
Joy Crisp, deputy project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times the rover will conduct searches for organic molecules and isotopic signatures that might indicate life did exist at one time on Mars.
“If this step pans out, if we do find organic compounds and we think that the rocks look likely to preserve evidence of life, then we will know better what to send next,” she said. “It is kind of an intermediate step.”
Once on Mars, the $2.6 billion rover will head to the Gale crater, where it will assess whether environmental conditions on the planet were ever favorable for the development of microbial life, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.