Over the next few years, we should be learning quite a bit more about our Martian neighbors. The Curiosity Rover is just starting out, but if it performs as well as its predecessors, then it should provide tons of interesting data about Mars and its geological history. When Curiosity ceases to function, maybe we'll be more willing to send manned missions, but robots seem to be doing a pretty good job so far. Here are just a few interesting tidbits on the red planet.
- Analysis of two Martian meteorites suggests that Mars may have contained much more water than previous estimates. During the formation of Mars, water was likely to be present in the Martian mantle in similar proportions as the Earth's mantle. [url]
- The Mars Curiosity Rover isn't the only spacecraft to try to land on an astronomical object in our solar system. At least twelve other unmanned crafts have hit moons, asteroids or other planets: the Soviet Union's Luna 9, NASA'a Surveyor 1 on the moon, the Lunokhod 1 on the moon, Russia's Venera 7 on Venus, Soviet Mars 3, the Viking 1 and Viking 2 spacecrafts on Mars, the Mars Pathfinder, the NEAR Shoemaker on an asteroid, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Huygens probe of Titan, Japan's Hayabusa probe, and the Mars Phoenix lander. [url]
- The 11-year-old Mars Odyssey probe is serving as a "real time" communications relay for Curiosity, allowing Curiosity to focus more of its energy on exploring Mars. Two other Mars satellites (NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the European Space Agency's Mars Express) are also re-transmitting signals from Curiosity, but with delays of several hours. [url]
If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post