Monday, December 9, 2013

Curiosity: Mars has been "inhabited" -

strata Mont Sharp, the next step of analysis for the Curiosity rover on Mars. / Photo NASA / JPL Caltech

strata of Mount Sharp, the next step of analysis for the Curiosity rover on Mars. / Photo NASA / JPL Caltech

Scientists have published initial findings on the habitability of the planet Mars in the journal Science. Explanations with Toulouse the Curiosity team.

After the announcement, the evidence. On March 12, in the wake of the first hole drilled by the rover Curiosity, teams of NASA, the U.S. space agency, reported that the former environment of Mars was habitable. Scientists at the MSL Mission (Mars Science Laboratory) today published the evidence in the journal Science. Satisfaction for Toulouse adventure that drive ChemCam, the laser camera hoisted on the mast of Curiosity.

“Scientific publication is a defining moment, it will launch the debate in the scientific community,” says Olivier Gasnault, a planetary scientist at the IRAP (1) and responsible for the scientific operations ChemCam. “The mission was launched to see if Mars was habitable. You can check this goal but it is not known when and how long it was. As Mars has frozen in the past, there are three billion years, and it is fairly close to the Earth, we will look at what it the birth of a habitable planet, “breath Sylvestre Maurice, astronomer and inventor of IRAP Curiosity.

But what scientists found with Curiosity exploring Mars since now sixteen months? First clays detected in both wells in February and May 2013. “They are different from those identified orbiting satellites because we have gone beyond the layer of dust. They show that there was liquid water for a longer time. Clues suggest that they were formed on site. This is the first time we made mineralogy at this level, we analyze the in situ clay, “says Pierre-Yves Meslin, lecturer at the IRAP. “The onboard laboratory SAM helped heat the samples and analyze the gas was escaping. Of steam is always output, which refers to clays. There is also calcium perchlorate, a chemical element which can hide organic compounds. Finally, chlorinated hydrocarbons show that there are organic liquid components. But these hydrocarbons can result from contamination caused by Curiosity, even if they are found in larger numbers in the sand at the beginning of the mission, “adds Lionel D’Uston, research director at CNRS.

“We see that there are veins in these rocks, some filled with different materials. Yellowknife, the site of drilling has had a complex history with successive events involving fluids to carry rocks and transform. The mission will try to find it elsewhere, to date. This is the interest in Mount Sharp with its successive strata, “concludes Olivier Gasnault.

(1) IRAP: Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées – CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), University of Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier


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