NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on Mars with dramatic style in August, 2012. Now that the rover has spent more than a year exploring the martian surface, scientific data from the mission is starting to make its way into journals and popular news here on Earth.
In fact, there is so much data coming back from the rover that it is sometimes hard to understand what all of the different findings mean - both in terms of the fine details of Curiosity’s landing site and their greater application to the planet as a whole.
In September, five articles were published as a special collection, “Curiosity at Gale Crater,” in the journal Science. The articles present results from the first four months of Curiosity’s studies in Gale Crater, during which time the rover covered 500 meters driving across the surface. Narrowing the focus even further, the majority of results come from two specific sites from Curiosity’s journey. The first is a rock dubbed Jake Matijevic (or Jake_M). The second is a patch of sand known as Rocknest, which sits on a downhill slope below a group of dark rocks. The papers also include measurements taken from martian soil along the length of the 500 meter traverse.
Astrobiology Magazine recently spoke with some of the researchers behind the Science articles in order to better understand how these findings relate to the study of life’s potential on ancient Mars.