Science

Robot Curiosity explores a new region of Mars

New Horizons as a birthday present. The Curiosity robot is celebrating its 10th anniversary on the red planet, and to kick off this new period of its Martian “life,” it’s about to discover a region whose soil is mostly sulphate, which it hasn’t explored yet.

At a slower pace than in the past, in order to save its power, the robot is moving towards an 800 m wide valley, at the bottom of which, according to scientists, the remains of a canal can be seen. “We wonder if this is one of the last showers on Mars,” explains Olivier Gasnot, the scientist in charge of ChemCam France, the Franco-American instrument aboard Curiosity. “This zone, which we often see on Mars, marks the climatic transition to the aridity and desiccation we now know,” he adds.

Big trip since 2012

“The main conclusion that can be drawn from the studies conducted by Curiosity, and this was one of the goals of the mission, is that Mars was habitable for a simple life form,” said Valerie Mousset, Curiosity project manager. Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and Curiosity at the National Center for Space Research (CNES) in Toulouse. “There was liquid and stable water, as well as the presence of molecules necessary for microbiological life,” she adds.

“Curiosity allowed us to change the scale of planetary exploration by placing a small laboratory on site, as well as developing strategies and asking the right questions for the next missions,” Olivier Gasnot explained on the premises of CNES a few days before the tenth anniversary of the robot’s landing.

The scientist cites the example of SuperCam, another tool created with the participation of CNES, “thanks to everything we have learned to make it better.” This device aboard Perseverance, the last rover to arrive on Mars in 2021, is capable of analyzing the chemical elements that minerals can form, but was also able to record the first Martian sounds in May 2021 while maintaining high maneuverability.

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