PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — Members of the team behind the NASA Mars rover Curiosity along with personnel at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena Monday were set to celebrate the first anniversary of the rover’s landing.
Several Curiosity team members will share remembrances from before, during and after the tense landing night a year ago during an auditorium panel discussion at the JPL campus.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft and its unprecedented sky crane landing system placed Curiosity on Mars near the base of Mount Sharp on Aug. 5, 2012.
Researchers say the mountain has exposed geological layers, including ones identified by Mars orbiters as originating in a wet environment.
Once the rover landed about one mile from the center of that carefully chosen, 12-mile-long target area, scientists decided first to investigate closer outcrops. The mission quickly found signs of vigorous ancient stream flow, marking the first stream-bed pebble deposits ever examined up close on Mars.
CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that evidence of a past environment well suited to support microbial life came within the first eight months of the 23-month primary mission from analysis of the first sample material ever collected by drilling into a rock on Mars.
“They have determined that Mars did indeed have a habitable environment in the distant past…now whether or not life evolved is still an open question,” Harwood said. “But they now know that conditions would’ve supported it, and that’s a major step forward.”
Having already achieved its main science goal of revealing ancient Mars could have supported life, NASA officials say the mobile laboratory also is guiding designs for future planetary missions.
A movie made with Hazard-Avoidance Camera images from Curiosity’s first year, titled “Twelve Months in Two Minutes”, can be viewed on the official NASA website.