Curiosity's chem lab on Mars

By Phil Plait | August 2, 2012 11:00 am

The Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity – is fitted with an array of sophisticated scientific instruments to analyze the environment on the planet, and see if it is now or ever was hospitable for life.

The American Chemical Society sponsored a nicely-done video explaining how Curiosity will go about poking and prodding (and zapping!) the landscape in Gale crater, its landing site:

The descriptions and video will really help you understand what the rover will do and just how complex this mission really is. We’re getting very, very good at this sort of thing, and Curiosity is the culmination of decades of exploration of Mars. It’ll land on the Red Planet at 05:31 (UTC) August 6 (01:31 Eastern US time), and I’ll be part of an online live video Hangout talking to experts about it as well. Come join us!


Related Posts:

Wil Wheaton has Curiosity
Mars Attacks of the Show
Landing on Mars: Seven minutes of terror
Curiosity on its way to Mars!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA

Comments (29)

Links to this Post

  1. astronomy round-up: 3 August 2012 | Jennifer Willis | August 3, 2012
  1. azamk

    Any tips on where we can watch the broadcast for the Curiosity landing on Mars?

  2. Brian

    Thanks, Phil. This video has lots of good information. We’re told that Curiosity has lots of sophisticated equipment, but here are details on what exactly Curiosity will be able to do.

    And a side helping of cheekiness. Somebody really had fun making that video.

  3. ChumbleSpuzz

    Really digging on the music selections for this video!

  4. Rebecca Harbison

    Nice music choice — I recognize “Mars, the Bringer of War” by Holst as the opening selection. (Well, where the orchestra swells 30 seconds in)

  5. RdeG

    Isn’t that Io, rather than Mars, in the opening frame?

  6. Chris

    @4 RdeG
    Nope, definitely Mars
    In color, but definitely the same features
    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/image/planetary/mars/marsglobe3.jpg

  7. DanO

    Drilling
    Grinding to a powder
    Pyrolyzing
    Laser induced breakdown
    X-rays
    Gamma rays

    Those all sound pretty violent.
    Are we looking for life? or trying to kill anything we find?

  8. Turbo

    Assuming Curiosity lands safely, which it almost certainly will not. NASA will regret hyping up the landing so much, because the failure of Curiosity to land will be used as justification to further slash their planetary science budget.

    And it is not just me. Keith Cowing over at NASA Watch also seems fairly convinced Curiosity will fail and that NASA would have been better off to cancel Curiosity and go for a far less risky, and more cost effect, approach to Mars exploration.

  9. KC

    Opening lines from “Plan 9 from Outer Space”!

  10. Scott Davis

    What if we send one of these to Titan too?

  11. MichaelT

    @DanO, I was wondering the same thing. If there are microbes of some sort can they be detected/imaged?

  12. Robin

    @Turbo (#8):

    There certainly is no data or factual evidence to suggest that Curiosity “almost certainly will not” land safely. Further, you’re misrepresenting Keith Cowing’s statements. Even if those were Cowing’s exact statements, Cowing is only one observer.

    If NASA doesn’t get the word out–“hype” , in your words–people don’t find out what NASA does and can’t justify spending money on an agency whose work they don’t know. If NASA does get the word out, they get criticized for “hyping”. Apparently NASA is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

  13. CB

    Fish gotta swim. Haters gotta hate.

  14. Ryan S

    I have to say this landing seems incredibly complex. The fleet center here in San Diego is having an event for it and I just might go. Pretty cool idea on their part!

    http://www.rhfleet.org/site/astronomy/curiosity.cfm

  15. Jamie

    @Michael T

    As far as I’m aware, Curiosity is not looking for life. It is assessing past habitability and how Mars has evolved over time.

  16. Buzz

    @DanO & MichaelT, it is not looking for living things but signs of early life/life-giving conditions by analyzing the chemical composition of the martian soil.

  17. @4

    Yep.
    Can we download the music somewere?

  18. Messier Tidy Upper

    @1. azamk : Any tips on where we can watch the broadcast for the Curiosity landing on Mars?

    You’ve probably already seen it but in case not see :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/08/01/curious-about-curiosity-heres-info-on-where-to-watch/

    To which I’ll just add that the Curiosity rover itself has a facebook page as well.

  19. Messier Tidy Upper

    @10. Scott Davis : “What if we send one of these to Titan too?”

    Seconded by me – and also Europa and Pluto and other worlds as well. NASA should start up a production line of ‘em I reckon! 8)

    @12. Robin :

    @Turbo (#8) : There certainly is no data or factual evidence to suggest that Curiosity “almost certainly will not” land safely. Further, you’re misrepresenting Keith Cowing’s statements. Even if those were Cowing’s exact statements, Cowing is only one observer. If NASA doesn’t get the word out–”hype” , in your words–people don’t find out what NASA does and can’t justify spending money on an agency whose work they don’t know. If NASA does get the word out, they get criticized for “hyping”. Apparently NASA is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

    Seconded by me as well.

    @5. RdeG : “Isn’t that Io, rather than Mars, in the opening frame?”

    Mars in black-&-white rather than colour. Starts with the pre-colour TV arty effect.

  20. BTW. Classic quintuple collection of Curiosity clips is linked to my name here too.

    Or see ‘The Internet’s 5 Best Things on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Lander’ posted on the 80Beats blog on the 3rd August 2012 at 10:30 AM.

    Folks reading here have probably seen some – if not all – of them before but still.

    2 days 12 hours & 21 minutes to go!

  21. MichaelT

    Thanks Jamie and Buzz for chiming in. I just don’t understand why they are mutually exclusive questions. Why both questions, life past and present, could not have been addressed in this mission.

  22. bouch

    the more I listened, the more it sounded like the Turbo Encabulator…

  23. mike burkhart

    I like the intro form Plan 9 form outer space. Off topic : Since you took down the 2001 trailer. 2001 a space odysey was a film that paved the way for other big specal efects movies like Star Wars and Alien.But there were things in 2001 that had been sceen in other sci-fi films.The wheel space station has been a staple in many sci-fi films like the 50s Conquest of space that had one that was called the wheel the idea was that a wheel space station could rotate and provide artifcal gravity,evel computer this has been in many sci-fi films and tv shows ,in one Star Trek epsiode the crew battled the M5 computer. Computers don’t relly have a consept of morality but they can malfuction and cause death.Going to the Moon big topic in early sci-fi but interst in Moon flights in sci=fi fell off after the Apollo missions.

  24. Brian Too

    “Greetings Martian friends! We are here to learn from you (take your best ideas), exchange cultures (microbes, viruses), and initiate trade (we’ll take what we want and pay the price we feel like paying)!”

    Or at least it seems that is the main way first contact has played out here on Earth.

  25. @ ^ Brian Too : That’s probably just human nature unfortunately. :-(

    Maybe alien sentiences will be more enlightened and more reasonable but I don’t think we can count on it. They are quite likely to be more advanced than we are though & Humanity has been, arguably, learning and getting much better. Western culture is a lot more tolerant and equal opportunity and cosmopolitian-ly aware than any previous major civilisation I’d say.

    ******

    Aussie ABC- TV news program Lateline had a good little section on the Curiosity rover landing last night. Transcipt and video linked to my name for this comment if folks wish to check it out. :-)

  26. It´s a bit spammy and it´s a rerun, but still…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAv3tBIKISM

  27. CB

    Hey Turbo, don’t you feel stupid now?!

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