The Curiosity rover was launched within the NASA mission known as Mars Science Laboratory in its Mars Exploration program. This mission was aimed at finding information about habitability on the red planet.
In this way, the spacecraft carrying the Curiosity was launched on November 26, 2011, landing in the Gale de Mars crater almost 9 months later.
The Curiosity rover's design was three times heavier and twice as long as the Spirity and Opportunity rovers of the Mars Exploration Rovers program. The aim of the rover was to collect samples of the soil and rocks to analyze them and to know the organic compounds and environmental conditions that could establish their habitability. It would also determine the possibility of existence of microbial life on Mars, now or in the past.
International collaboration on Mars
In addition, the Mars Science Laboratory mission had a very international character and was attended by various countries. Thus, the Russian Federal Space Agency provided a neutron-based hydrogen detector for water localization. But the mission also had the help of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, which sent a weather package, and the Canadian Space Agency, which offered a spectrometer.
The Curiosity has 6 wheels, which facilitate its mobility on the surface of Mars, and several cameras. It is also able to collect samples of rocks and soil.
This vehicle is equipped with a multitude of scientific tools and instruments to analyze these samples and verify the existence of organic molecules in carbon-containing compounds. These molecules contain one or more carbon atoms together with hydrogen, although in some cases they contain additional elements. Although these types of molecules can exist without the need for life, life as we know it cannot exist without these types of molecules.
In this way, the presence of organic molecules would be an important advance in the research on habitability on Mars and, therefore, a great step in its exploration. The Curiosity also tries to find another type of chemical elements essential for life, such as nitrogen, oxygen or phosphorus.
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