Yesterday I wrote a bit about the new NASA probe, "Curiosity," a 2.5 billion dollar nuclear powered surface robotic probe, that will be winging its way to the Red Planet. In that blog, I mentioned that Gale Crater seems to have emerged as the front runner of where to land the probe:
Notably the article gives many standard, and sound, geological reasons for landing the probe at this site, not the least of which, given the extremes of the Martian landscape, would be that the Crater could conceivable be a kind of "microclimate," conducive not only to past life but perhaps the presence of microbial life in the present.
Gale does present some very intriguing features:
Needless to say, a nuclear powered robotic probe would be the perfect vehicle to explore such a place, provided the topographical extremes do not inhibit too much exploration. Which brings us to the issue of its name: "Curiosity." We all know what "killed the cat," but as I noted in yesterday's blog, in addition to all the scientific equipment to test for life or life-sustaining conditions, what intrigues me is that camera-on-the-mast. This will provide a bird's eye view, "up close and personal" so to speak, of the Martian surface, and frankly, I hope they do pick Gale crater as the landing site, because this would give us insights into the nature of geological processes on Mars, not to mention a glimpse into the sedimentary history of that planet, a history that would and could be very revealing about our own.