Science
11:33 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Follow along with the Mars' rover, Curiosity, on NOVA, December 11th at 8 pm

In August, a rover named Curiosity touched down inside Mars’ Gale Crater, carrying 10 new instruments that will advance the quest for signs that Mars might once have been suitable for life. But Curiosity’s mission is risky. After parachuting through the Martian atmosphere at twice the speed of sound, Curiosity was gently lowered to the planet’s surface by a “sky crane.” This first-of-its-kind system has been tested on Earth, but there was no guarantee it would work on Mars. With inside access to the massive team of scientists and engineers responsible for Curiosity’s on-the-ground experiments, NOVA was there for the exhilarating moments after Curiosity’s landing — and is there for the spectacular discoveries to come.

"Ultimate Mars Challenge" on NOVA airs on Wednesday, December 11th at 8:00 p.m. on channels 3 and 3-1.

This oblique view of the lower mound in Gale crater shows layers of rock that preserve a record of environments on Mars. Here, orbiting instruments have detected signatures of both clay minerals and sulfate salts, with more clay minerals apparent in the foreground of this image and fewer in higher layers. This change in mineralogy may reflect a change in the ancient environment in Gale Crater.