Rover results include first age and radiation measurements on Mars

Dec. 9, 2013 at 3:07 PM   |   0 comments

PASADENA, Calif., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. space rover Curiosity is providing critical information about Mars' past and present to help plan future missions, NASA officials said.

In a little more than a year on Mars, the unmanned mobile science laboratory determined the age of a martian rock, found evidence the planet could have sustained microbial life, took first readings of radiation on the surface, and showed how natural erosion could reveal the building blocks of life, NASA said in a release.

Information about the scientific finds as well as other information gleaned from Curiosity was presented Monday online by Science Express and in talks at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The data on radiation will help NASA scientists and engineers create better models to anticipate the radiation environment human explorers will face, NASA said.

Curiosity's first readings of radiation hazards at Mars' surface will help in planning human missions to the Red Planet, NASA said. Other findings will guide the search for evidence of life on Mars by improving insight about how erosion may have affected molecular life.

"Our measurements provide crucial information for human missions to Mars," Don Hassler of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said. "We're continuing to monitor the radiation environment and seeing the effects of major solar storms on the surface at different times in the solar cycle will give additional important data. Our measurements also tie into Curiosity's investigations about habitability. The radiation sources that are concerns for human health also affect microbial survival as well as preservation of organic chemicals."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., built Curiosity and manages the mission.

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