Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Unlocking Mars Mystery

I switched on my television in the morning in high anticipation. It was nearly time for the Curiosity Rover to land on the Red planet. Weighting around 1 ton and running on 6 wheels thereby resembling a small sports car, news channels called it ‘mission curiosity’. With a spending of a tremendous $2.5 billion, NASA had pitched its hope for future funding on the success of this project. The other exciting thing was the use of multi-disciplinary fields. The technology relating to robotic engineering, telemetry, telecommunications, instrumentation, electronics engineering etc had been applied. This mega project had been made possible by combining different branches of science and engineering. And this space milestone was made possible after 30 years of exhaustive research and study by NASA scientist and engineers.

Being an engineer myself, I felt proud to hear the number of Indians involved in the project. The news anchors kept reminding from their studios that with respect to number of engineers involved, after America and Britain, the Indian engineers stood at third position. Professors from Lucknow to Delhi universities were interviewed live for their continuous feedback. Viewers would have been glued to their TVs, like me.

Soon it was 11.01 am. The news anchor announced the breaking news. Curiosity Rover had landed on the vast, ancient impact crater on Mars successfully. NASA erupted in celebrations. There were hugs all around the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and scientists were seen jumping up and down in ecstasy. There were shouts of delight amongst the mission team and thumping on shoulders of everyone. Then Curiosity started sending its images from Mars. The happiness of the scientists knew no bounds. At 11.14 am, a low resolution black and white image was sent by the Rover. The very first image showed lots of dust particles around it when it had landed on the crater. The next image showed more clear image after the dust had settled down a bit. One of the images showed the shadow of the Rover on Mars.

The continuous thirst for knowledge and information by mankind has paved the way for the making of the Curiosity. It is known as the ultimate tool to know and find out whether life once existed on Mars, possibility of availability of water particles as well as future human habitation and existence of methane. Mars being called as the Red planet holds lots of secrets. It’s time to unravel them. Thanks to Rover which is equipped with 16 cameras on it. After travelling for about 8.5 months to reach on Mars, it has to hunt for life and send data to prepare for future human mission for the next two years. It is a kind of a movable technology. It has sensors to sense water and laser to cut through rocks. Just imagine the amount of information we can get in upcoming months! There has been a lot of excitement about ideas of life on other planets. The rumours of sightings of UFOs and aliens back on Earth have paved way for many Hollywood science-fiction films.  Now just imagine if the Rover does senses something exciting like water! What will happen if Mars is found to have similar atmosphere like Earth? Well, personally I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope it gives some image about an UFO for a change. Or a footprint of an alien would also do for me. That would set the alarm bells ringing for the scientists around the world. I could just visualize the headlines of the news channels-‘UFO sighted on Mars’ or ‘Do aliens reside on Mars?’      

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