NASA's Curiosity Rover Finds Volcanic Soil on Mars

NASA's Curiosity Rover Finds Volcanic Soil on Mars

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New findings on Mars suggest a volcanic upheaval in the red planet's history.

Exploring new planets is usually the motive of science fiction heroes or videogame protagonists, but that's exactly what NASA is doing with the Curiosity mission on Mars right now. The rover landed on the surface of Mars on August 6th, and quickly got to work snapping photographs and taking samples for the on-board instruments to analyze. Today, NASA released findings from just such a soil sample that provides an insight into the geologic history of Mars. According to the tests, the soil of the Gale Crater is similar to those produced by earthly volcanoes in Hawaii.

"Much of Mars is covered with dust, and we had an incomplete understanding of its mineralogy," said David Bish, one of the scientists monitoring Curiosity's findings from here on Earth at Indiana University. "We now know it is mineralogically similar to basaltic material, with significant amounts of feldspar, pyroxene and olivine, which was not unexpected. Roughly half the soil is non-crystalline material, such as volcanic glass or products from weathering of the glass."

Curiosity has 10 instruments for analyzing the Mars landscape, but the one that discovered the volcanic soil is called CheMin - short for Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument. CheMin shoots x-rays at samples and measures how much the beams refract to determine the properties of metals or other materials in the soil. The Curiosity is the first rover to carry such high-tech instruments to the subject planet itself, allowing scientists to obtain test results very close to real time.

The team is excited with the results from Curiosity so far, but they have yet to find the mother lode - that is, proof Mars sustained microbial life. "Our team is elated with these first results from our instrument," said David Blake, from NASA. "They heighten our anticipation for future CheMin analyses in the months and miles ahead for Curiosity."

Me too, David. The anticipation is killing me!

Source: NASA

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Makes sense, considering the planet has the largest mountain (Olympus Mons, a volcano) in the solar system

Zombie_Moogle:
Makes sense, considering the planet has the largest mountain (Olympus Mons, a volcano) in the solar system

Yeah it's kind of obvious in retrospect.

You would have thought they had found Eezo or something.

We already knew that Mars had a active geological history before this, so this isn't surprising.

But a little off topic: how much would it cost to build a assembly line for curiosity rovers? And how much would it cost to just spam mars with about 50 more rovers?

uchytjes:
We already knew that Mars had a active geological history before this, so this isn't surprising.

But a little off topic: how much would it cost to build a assembly line for curiosity rovers? And how much would it cost to just spam mars with about 50 more rovers?

AnAbsoluteFucktonIllion Dollars.

Greg Tito:
they have yet to find the mother lode

i see what you did there.
And yay expensive stuff going to Mars!

So they're expecting to find some sort of microlifethings?
Soon alien invasion xD

Sounds good, just as long as they don't stubble across any black oil deposits I would say things are looking up with this new rover.

Triforceformer:

uchytjes:
We already knew that Mars had a active geological history before this, so this isn't surprising.

But a little off topic: how much would it cost to build a assembly line for curiosity rovers? And how much would it cost to just spam mars with about 50 more rovers?

AnAbsoluteFucktonIllion Dollars.

sooo... about the budget for national defense?

uchytjes:

Triforceformer:

uchytjes:
We already knew that Mars had a active geological history before this, so this isn't surprising.

But a little off topic: how much would it cost to build a assembly line for curiosity rovers? And how much would it cost to just spam mars with about 50 more rovers?

AnAbsoluteFucktonIllion Dollars.

sooo... about the budget for national defense?

Yeah pretty much.

So we got confirmation of what we knew. at least were beign updated on this.

image

The first thing I thought of when I read this.
The obvious was inspected, and it was determined we were right. I feel that this was wasted space, but it really isn't.
Rover, your new mission is to find me a new metal, which we shall name Unobtanium! Or Piestone!

Coreless:
Sounds good, just as long as they don't stubble across any black oil deposits I would say things are looking up with this new rover.

But if we found black oil, even a little, wouldn't that lead to the Republican party and other interest groups pouring billions of dollars back into NASA reopening or re-imagining the space shuttle program and NASA's missions. Eventually leading to full blown and manned expeditions to Mars to search for oil and eventually establish a base that could lead to the first extra planetary city?

*(to uchytjes, i apologize for quoting you, i hit the wrong button.)

But if we found black oil, even a little, wouldn't that lead to the Republican party and other interest groups pouring billions of dollars back into NASA reopening or re-imagining the space shuttle program and NASA's missions. Eventually leading to full blown and manned expeditions to Mars to search for oil and eventually establish a base that could lead to the first extra planetary city?
[/quote]

Yes, and I'd actually LOVE to see this happen. Not just because of colonizing mars, but because if we find oil there that isn't from decomposed life, it would mean that we could easily find oil on most any rocky body in space as long as its rich in hydrogen and carbon. If that happens, they wouldn't just put money towards nasa to colonize mars, they would put it towards improving interplanetary travel and that whole "mining asteroids" business from a while back.

But, alas, that "gasoline out of air" technology that was announced a few weeks back may shoot this thing in the foot... I'm actually torn between which to root for more.

uchytjes:

Triforceformer:

uchytjes:
We already knew that Mars had a active geological history before this, so this isn't surprising.

But a little off topic: how much would it cost to build a assembly line for curiosity rovers? And how much would it cost to just spam mars with about 50 more rovers?

AnAbsoluteFucktonIllion Dollars.

sooo... about the budget for national defense?

CpT_x_Killsteal:
Yeah pretty much.

Yeah, I'm gonna say no to that.

The entire Curiosity mission cost about 2.5 billion dollars, over a course of 9 years. That's roughly about 280 million dollars, per year, spread evenly.

That includes developing, building and launching the rover.

The US military budget, for 2011 alone, was 711 billion dollars.

Now, if we were to assume that we could mass produce these rovers, so that we could have 50 of them ready and launched by next year, and it would still cost 2.5 billion, per rover, the total cost would be about 125 billion. That's slightly more than 1/6th of the military budget.

Short answer: The military budget is a bloated behemoth. You'd have to fund the construction of another ISS station, in orbit of Mars, to come close to matching its cost.

Edit:
Obligatory links, so that I can prove I'm not pulling numbers out of my ass.
Cost of rover: http://www.businessinsider.com/mars-rover-curiosity-cost-each-american-8-2012-9
Military budget: http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2012/04

 

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