Have they found ways to levitate on Mars? Can they climb a wall? These are the fascinating questions about the ability of our species to fly. I’ve written a brief summary of my research to the Space Science Board. I’m hopeful that other scientists will read it and see that the time has come for us to understand just what type of life forms we might find on another planet.
So, here’s what we learned in our first manned mission to Mars.
The first steps
We landed on Mars in October 2012. We brought down three experiments for our first landing, a probe called MAVEN. The probe was to help us learn more about the Martian atmosphere so that we can better understand what will be the conditions on the red planet if we ever want to go there.
To find out more about the atmosphere we placed a radio telescope over the martian surface. It didn’t show very much, but we also found out about the presence of dust in the atmosphere. We also learned about the presence of hydrothermal vents on Mars. These vents spew large quantities of water. This water is what we think could supply all of the water that could conceivably exist in the ocean of the Red Planet. It would provide so much drinking water for all the people on the planet. The atmosphere also has traces of organic compounds that might give off some kind of energy with the right conditions.
Next, we landed a robot and rover called Curiosity. It reached an altitude of 6,000 meters and then used a drill to reach a drill hole in the surface. This hole measured about 10 x 5 mm in diameter. The first tests showed a large amount of gas and some gas was even released into the air. That was pretty incredible, since we haven’t really ever had that happen on a planet yet. We had a lot of work to do since we were not sure at this point what could have come out of any of it!
Next, we planned to land a rover called Opportunity on a flat, level area. When we got to this area, we discovered that it didn’t look like it could be reached easily. As an example, at 7,000 meters, a rover will have to climb the side of the hill with a large rock. Even at 10,000 meters, that would be too steep and the rover would have to use an alternative route. After trying to work around that problem, we decided to land on a crater as an alternative.
We also built a crane to