One year ago today, the team of engineers behind the mission to Mars pulled off an audacious stunt by landing the Curiosity spacecraft on the red planet by using a revolutionary hovering platform.
The discovery that Mars could have supported microbial life was equally stunning, since it’s the planet most like Earth in the solar system.
Allen Chen was appointed Flight Dynamics and Operations Lead for Entry, Descent and Landing on the mission. He told euronews:“I think a large part of people’s interest in Mars has been that Mars is the planet next door”.
Now, the one-ton rover heads to Mount Sharp, a three-mile high mound of layered sediment, in a bid to discover potentially life-friendly habitats and see whether the planet’s ancient rocks contain any preserved organic carbon.
“We’ve established habitability, that Mars could have supported life,” says Allen Chen. “Now let’s see if we can find the signs of that life in the past”.
It’s hoped Curiosity will be joined next year by another robotic NASA probe called MAVEN, which aims to explain why Mars is losing its atmosphere.
In collaboration with the European Space Agency’s Mars Express, scientists want to find out why a planet that started off so much like our own blue planet ended up so different.