As one of two Mars exploration ‘rovers’ created by NASA, Curiosity landed in Gale Crater on the planet in 2012 and has been busily collecting data ever since – a mission closely followed by the Discovery Channel, which is about to reveal all with Red Planet Rover. The show aims to provide audiences with a front-row view of one of the most thrilling and challenging scientific endeavours in history.
“Viewers will get access unlike anything else seen before, and take an incredible ride with the smartest, most complex robot ever launched from Earth – a one-ton, nuclear powered, all-terrain vehicle that is part geologist, part chemist, part photographer.
“NASA’s Curiosity was sent to solve one of the greatest mysteries of science – did life ever exist on Mars? It’s an audacious mission with no margin for error. And, like most things, making history has not been easy. Curiosity looks to uncover how Mars evolved over billions of years. Was it once – and could it be now – habitable for life?
“Bombarded by radiation, Mars’ surface is cold, dry and lethal. But it wasn’t always this way. ‘When we look at Mars, we have to wonder, did life happen there as well? If so, what happened to it?’ asked Gentry Lee – a veteran JPL engineer. ‘If life evolved first on Mars, what’s the possibility that life was knocked off Mars and carried all the way to planet Earth? Perhaps you and I, and everything that’s living on the planet, are Martians!’”
Curiosity and its mission have been making more headlines than usual recently, with ground-breaking new findings from within Gale Crater. The geographical feature measures a hundred miles across and three miles deep, and has an 18,000 foot mound at its centre, named Mount Sharp. It is in this crater that Curiosity previously found evidence of the past presence of water, in addition to chemical ingredients required for microbial life.
Now, Curiosity has documented relatively sudden venting of methane gas in the crater, which provides further evidence that could be interpreted as a sign of life. Though background levels of methane have long been detected on the mysterious planet, the spikes in levels spotted by Curiosity have drawn a lot of attention.
Showcasing NASA mission specialists and scientists alike, and detailing the momentous implications of Curiosity’s latest findings from Mars, Red Planet Rover airs on the Discovery Channel at 10pm ET/PT on Thursday December 18th 2014.