The atmosphere of the 1960s and our goal to put a man on the moon inspired a generation of future scientists to tackle the great mysteries of the universe. Now, the Mars rover Curiosity has reinvigorated the country's passion for science and space exploration.
With Curiosity's launch in August, millions of people have been waiting to see what it uncovers and if the Red Planet may have once been home to organic matter. A few weeks ago, rumors of a "game-changing" discovery hit the Web. NASA put out a press release last week assuring the public that it had not found proof of life on Mars.
However, NASA did announce yesterday that, while analyzing Martian soil samples, Curiosity detected "water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances." The agency cautioned the public that it still has to determine if these chemicals are indigenous to Mars or if they found their way there from Earth via the rover or materials that fell from space to the planet's surface.
There is still room for excitement, though. The first and most obvious reason is the fact that we may have found complex chemical compounds that could be indigenous to both Mars and Earth. The implications of such a definitive discovery would be huge. The second reason to be happy about this news is that it serves as a testament to the quality of scientific work being done here on Earth.
In previous blog posts, we have discussed the various technologies aboard Curiosity and their functions on the current mission. The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument have proven that they can successfully collect samples and conduct highly detailed analysis in an environment that humans have never been able to experience firsthand.
The worlds greatest minds have combined these technologies with the most advanced sensors and methods for joining metals and put Curiosity on the Martian surface in order to usher in a new era of scientific discovery. If that's not a reason to get excited, what is?