Checking in with NASA this week, the future of space travel to Mars could get a boost when a sedan-sized Reconnaissance Orbiter blasts off later this month. The new rover, named “Curiosity“, is bigger and better than earlier models. As the focus of NASA’s quest to investigate Mars for the possibility of habitable life, Curiosity might get man back into space.
“Mars Science Laboratory builds upon the improved understanding about Mars gained from current and recent missions,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission advances technologies and science that will move us toward missions to return samples from, and eventually send humans to, Mars.”
Speaking to reporters, Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, wouldn’t take the bait when asked how likely it was that Mars once had life reports CNN.
“That’s kind of a request for speculation and I really hate to do that,” he said, adding that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft the agency uses to study the planet from afar, has found evidence of “briny waters that could actually be liquidly waters on the surface.”
No mission to Mars since the 1970’s Viking landers has looked for a direct answer to the question of whether life has existed on Mars. Curiosity is not designed to answer that question directly but will look for signs of the prerequisites of life which can call for future missions.
The $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is scheduled for liftoff at 10:25 a.m. on November 25 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. We can follow the mission on Facebook and on Twitter.