Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Science of Mars

Mars Curiosity self portrait released this month.
Photo from NASA.  Click for credit.
In what is becoming an annual end of the year tradition for On the Brink, I am highlighting some environmental news items that I think were overlooked over the course of the year.

Over the last few days, I discussed the lack of information about the "new normal", the wide acceptance of GMO food-frankenfood, and the fine tuning of environmental benchmarks.  Today, I take us to Mars.

The Mars NASA Curiosity Rover has been diligently collecting data since its landing on Mars in August.  To date it has taken a wide variety of images giving us great information about the rocks, sediments, and soils on the planet.  In addition, chemical analysis of the atmosphere and soil is ongoing.  

In early December, NASA scientists announced that they found organic chemicals in Martian soil.  While it wasn't proof of life, the results widened discussion about the evolution of the planet.  Curiosity will continue to send back information to us over the coming months and I am sure that it will transform the way we see our Solar System.

The study of Mars helps us understand our own planetary environment--the evolution of our atmosphere, the evolution of life, and the impacts of global climate change.  I can't wait to find out what the mission discovers.  

Check out this video of my friend, Penny Boston (Professor at New Mexico Tech), reviewing the significance of Curiosity.

Here she is a few years ago at a TED Talk discussing her work on planetary exploration through caves.

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