At 1:30 a.m. on a crisp August morning, a rover named Curiosity successfully landed 567 million kilometers away from Earth on our red neighbour Mars. The feat was impressive, during the live telecast of the landing scientists were quoting that statistically she had a one-in-three chance of making it in one piece. But she did it, and it only took her eight and a half months to get there.
The vast amount of technology crammed into Curiosity’s one-ton frame is quite impressive — in total she costs about $2.5 billion. This makes her one of the most well equipped rovers to date. Once everything is set into action, Curiosity will collect and analyze samples of Mars’ surface to determine if organisms could ever survive on the hostile planet. Specifically, NASA will be looking for water. All the while Curiosity will take detailed photos and traverse a land we know little about.
The project was a collaboration between countries, much like many other NASA projects (remember the Canadarm on the Space Shuttle?), and Canada’s contribution was quite significant to the mission.
Ralf Gellert, a professor at the University of Guelph, designed Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer that sits on her arm. This spectrometer, which was also built by a Canadian company, will analyze the chemical makeup of each soil sample that Curiosity picks up. This is a vital step in determining the history and hospitability of the land.
The official mission will last 23 months, which is the maximum time that the rover’s power supply will last. During this time we hope that Curiosity may capture more stunning photos and report back with some interesting news. Let’s satisfy some curiosity shall we?
— Catherine Owsik