The successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, early Monday morning marks a significant and historic achievement on the way to the eventual human exploration of Mars.
“Curiosity’s successful landing demonstrates the feasibility of delivering ever-heavier payloads to the martian surface, and paves the way for future missions to land, gather samples and return them to Earth,” said Paul E. Damphousse, NSS Executive Director. “The ongoing successes of these unmanned data-gathering missions will ultimately lead to manned Mars missions, thus bringing us ever closer to the realization of NSS’s vision – people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth and using the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”
The MSL mission is not only about getting bigger and better equipment safely to the Martian surface. Curiosity is carrying the most technologically advanced instruments ever sent to Mars. This equipment is specifically designed to obtain samples from the rocks and soil and analyze their formation, structure and chemical composition in its onboard laboratory to determine whether the chemical building blocks of life exist and whether the Martian environment was capable of supporting life in the past.
The data gathered by Curiosity has the potential of greatly expanding our understanding of how life evolves in other planetary environments – in turn leading to increased knowledge, not only about the ability of planets outside our own solar system to sustain life, but also about what resources may be available on Mars that can be used to support and enable human exploration and settlement of it and other planets.