Mars Landing 2012_ Inside the N - Marc Kaufman

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Publi s h ed b y t h e N atio n al G eo gra p h ic S o cie ty
1145 1 7th S tr e et N .W ., W ash in gto n , D .C . 2 0036
C op yrig h t © 2 012 M arc K au fm an . A ll r ig h ts r e se rv ed . R ep ro d u ctio n o f t h e w hole o r a n y p art
of t h e c o n te n ts w it h ou t w rit te n p erm is sio n f r o m t h e p u bli s h er i s p ro h ib it e d .
eIS B N : 9 78-1 -4 262-1 093-8
The N atio n al G eo gra p h ic S o cie ty i s o n e o f t h e w orld ’s l a rg est n on pro fit s c ie n tif ic a n d
e d u ca tio n al o rg an iz a tio n s. F o u nded i n 1 888 t o “ in cre a se a n d d if fu se g eo gra p h ic k n ow le d ge,”
th e S o cie ty ’s m is sio n i s t o i n sp ir e p eo p le t o c a re a b ou t t h e p la n et. I t r e a ch es m ore t h an 4 00
m illi o n p eo p le w orld w id e e a ch m on th t h ro u gh i t s o ffic ia l jo u rn al,
Natio n al G eo gra ph ic
, a n d
oth er m ag azin es;
Natio n al G eo gra p h ic C han nel; t e le v is io n d ocu m en ta rie s; m usic ; r a d io ; f ilm s; b ooks; D VD s;
map s; e x h ib it io n s; l i v e e v en ts ; s c h ool p u bli s h in g p ro gra m s; i n te ra ctiv e m ed ia ; a n d
merc h an dis e . N atio n al G eo gra p h ic h as f u nded m ore t h an 1 0,0 00 s c ie n tif ic r e se a rc h ,
co n se rv atio n a n d e x p lo ra tio n p ro je cts a n d s u pports a n e d u ca tio n p ro gra m p ro m otin g
geo gra p h ic l i t e ra cy .
Fo r m ore i n fo rm atio n , v is it
www.n atio n alg eo gra p h ic .c o m
Natio n al G eo gra p h ic S o cie ty
1145 1 7th S tr e et N .W .
Wash in gto n , D .C . 2 0036-4 688 U .S .A .
Fo r r ig h ts o r p erm is sio n s i n qu ir ie s, p le a se c o n ta ct N atio n al G eo gra p h ic B ooks S u bsid ia ry
Rig h ts :
ngb ookrig h ts @ ngs.o rg
In te rio r d esig n : M eli s sa F arris

Cover: N ASA ’s M ars r o ver C urio sit y
(N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch ; c o ver d esig n b y J o n ath an H alli n g)
v3 .1

C ONTEN TS
Cover
Tit le P age
Copy rig h t
C HAPT ER
O
NE
The L u re a n d C halle n ge o f M ars
C HAPT ER
T
WO
Lan din g t h e H ard W ay
C HAPT ER
T
HREE
The S cie n ce a n d T ra v els o f C urio sit y
C HAPT ER
F
OUR
Can C urio sit y S av e t h e M ars P ro gra m ?
A CK N O W LE D GM EN TS
A PPE N DIX
The T en S cie n ce I n str u m en ts o n C urio sit y
Abo u t t h e A uth or

T he s p a cec ra ft c a rry in g C urio sit y e n te rs t h e t h in M artia n a tm osp h ere a t a s p eed o f 1 3,2 00 m ile s a n
hou r. I t h as s ix o r s e v en “ m in ute s o f t e rro r” t o c o m e t o t h e v ir tu ally f u ll s to p n eed ed t o p la ce t h e
ro ver o n t h e s u rfa ce o f M ars
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )

“ I
C HAPTER
O
NE
The L u re a n d C halle n ge o f M ars
f w e s a w s o m eth in g a n yth in g li k e th is o n M ars , w e’d s to p rig h t
aw ay . W e’d sp en d a lo t o f tim e w it h it a n d ch eck it o u t w it h
e v ery th in g w e’v e g o t.”
So sa id Jo h n G ro tz in ger, to p sc ie n tis t fo r N ASA ’s M ars Scie n ce
L ab ora to ry (M SL ) mis sio n — pro b ab ly th e most am bit io u s an d
i m porta n t p la n eta ry m is sio n e v er flo w n. A s th e sc ie n ce le a d fo r th e
m is sio n , h e c o ord in ate s th e te a m th at d ecid es w here th e ro verro b ot
C urio sit y w ill g o o n M ars a n d w hat i t w ill i n vestig ate .
A gro u p of us w ere w it h G ro tz in ger on a m ou nta in sid e in th e
b arre n N op ah R an ge o f so u th ea ste rn C ali f o rn ia , n ot fa r fr o m D ea th
V alle y . T he v ie w to a ll sid es w as e n tir e ly M ars -li k e, e x ce p t fo r th e
o cca sio n al barre l ca ctu s or lo n ely bro w ned gra ss. W it h th e w in d
b lo w in g, th e d u st k ic k in g u p, a n d th e la n d p arc h ed a n d h ot in th e
e x tr e m e, it w asn ’t h ard to im ag in e w e m ig h t a ctu ally b e o n M ars — a
p la ce e q u ally p arc h ed a n d o ft e n a s c o ld a s D ea th V alle y is h ot. T hat’s
w hy th e C urio sit y te a m b rin gs th e ro ver’s te st tw in to th e a re a fo r
s im ula te d r u ns.
What G ro tz in ger w an te d t o s h ow u s w as a n u nu su al p re se n ce in t h e
r o ck — th e re m ain s o f a cy li n der fo rm atio n em bed ded in a b ed ro ck
w it h th e k in d o f w av y li n es th at s u ggest th e a n cie n t p re se n ce o f li f e .
T o th e unsc h oole d ey e, it ’s ju st an oth er ju m ble of ro ck s on th e
u ndis tin gu is h ed s id e o f w hat is k n ow n a s A sh H ill. B ut to G ro tz in ger,
i t w as a sig n th at th e c ra g gy h ills o f th e a re a h ad
on ce b een fla t—
i n deed , th e b otto m o f a n o ce a n . A nd m ore th an a b illi o n y ea rs a g o ,
m ats of sin gle -c e ll m ic ro b es gre w acro ss th at oce a n flo or. The
C ali f o rn ia In stit u te of T ech nolo gy geo lo gis t h ad stu die d th e ro ck s

in te n siv ely in th e p ast a n d h ad w rit te n a n im porta n t jo u rn al a rtic le
ab ou t t h em , c o n clu din g t h at t h e “ tu bes” w ere m ost li k ely t h e r e m ain s
of a n u nu su al c o lu m nar fo rm o f a n cie n t li f e . T hou gh in t h e A m eric a n
dese rt, G ro tz in ger w as id en tif y in g th e kin d of fe a tu re s Curio sit y
wou ld be lo okin g fo r on M ars an d ex p la in in g so m e of th e w ay s
sc ie n tis ts h op ed t h e r o ver w ou ld l o ca te a n d e x am in e i t s t a rg ets .
It h as b een a lo n g tim e s in ce N ASA h as s e n t a m is sio n to M ars t h at
was ex p li c it ly in vo lv ed in astr o b io lo gy — th e se a rc h fo r li f e b ey o n d
Earth . T he la st a str o b io lo gy m is sio n w as in th e 1 970s, w hen th e tw o
Vik in g la n ders i n it ia te d h um an e x p lo ra tio n o f t h e M artia n s u rfa ce a n d
se n t b ack n eg ativ e, t h ou gh e q u iv o ca l a n d e v en c o n fli c tin g, r e su lt s .
While M SL /C urio sit y is n ot a “ li f e d ete ctio n ” m is sio n p er se , it is
defin it e ly s e a rc h in g f o r t h e p re se n ce o f t h e p ossib le b u ild in g b lo ck s o f
li f e o n M ars . It ca rrie s ex tr e m ely p ow erfu l ca m era s, a ro b otic a rm
th at ca n gra b an d drill, a la se r, an d tw o m in i- la b ora to rie s w it h
ca p ab ili t ie s u nli k e an yth in g se n t b ey o n d E arth b efo re . O ne fo rm al
go al is to lo ok fo r o rg an ic s— th e c o m ple x c a rb on c o m pou nds th at a re
esse n tia l fo r li f e o n E arth a n d p re su m ed to b e sim ila rly e sse n tia l o n
Mars . In a d dit io n , C urio sit y w ill b e a sse ssin g w heth er it s d estin atio n
—Gale Cra te r— ev er had th e ch ara cte ris tic s th at m ak e a pla ce
“h ab it a b le ” or was pote n tia lly on ce ev en in h ab it e d . So while
Curio sit y m ig h t n ot e x actly b e lo okin g fo r s ig n s o f li f e , it is d efin it e ly
on t h e t r a il o f e x tr a te rre str ia l l i f e p re se n t a n d p ast.
Both of it s prim ary se a rc h es in vo lv e pain sta k in g an d hig h ly
co m ple x g ath erin g a n d t e stin g o f c ru sh ed b it s o f r o ck a t t h e s u perh ig h
te m pera tu re s th at ca n be gen era te d w it h in Curio sit y ’s porta b le
ch em is tr y la b s. B ut th ey a ls o in vo lv e g eo lo gy — th e k in d o f fo re n sic
in vestig atio n th at p ra ctit io n ers u se o n E arth to te ll th e h is to ry o f a
pla ce th ro u gh it s ro ck fo rm atio n s. Gale Cra te r w as se le cte d as
Curio sit y ’s la n din g s it e p re cis e ly b eca u se i t h as a h uge m ou nta in a t i t s
ce n te r— 18,0 00-f o ot M ou nt S h arp — on w hic h m an y la y ers o f r o ck a re
cle a rly e x p ose d , a llo w in g fo r a n e n tir e ly u npre ce d en te d e x am in atio n
an d r e a d in g o f t h e p la n et’s p ast.
Gro tz in ger w an te d so m e of us w ho w ill be w rit in g ab ou t th e
jo u rn ey o f C urio sit y a cro ss th e su rfa ce o f M ars to b e in tr o d u ce d to

on e o f th e im porta n t to ols th at sc ie n tis ts w ill b e u sin g, a n d to le a rn
ab ou t it in a se ttin g th at fe els p osit iv ely M artia n . T he la y erin g o f
ro ck s c a n te ll g eo lo gis ts sto rie s a b ou t w heth er a n d w hen w ate r w as
pre se n t, wheth er th e pla n et ex p erie n ce d lo n g-a g o qu ak es an d
fa u lt in g, w heth er th e v ery w ea k M artia n a tm osp h eric m ag n etic fie ld
use d to be m uch str o n ger, an d w hat co m pou nds (in clu din g th ose
org an ic c o m pou nds) w ere o n th e s u rfa ce a n d h ow th ey in te ra cte d to
fo rm m in era ls . A ll t h is ju st b y r e a d in g a n d a n aly zin g t h e r o ck s.
And th en th ere ’s th e d is ta n t c h an ce o f fin din g so m eth in g li k e th e
tu bes in th e r o ck w it h b io lo gic a lly fo rm ed w av y li n es o n th e s u rfa ce
th at G ro tz in ger w an te d u s to u nders ta n d. It w on ’t ta k e th e d is c o very
of a d ep osit li k e t h at t o m ak e t h e C urio sit y m is sio n a s u cce ss, b u t if it
hap pen ed , it wou ld be am on g th e most im porta n t sc ie n tif ic
dis c o verie s i n h um an h is to ry .
To b rin g th e p oin t h om e a g ain , G ro tz in ger to ok u s se v era l m ile s
aw ay t o a n a re a o f a b an don ed t a lc m in es. W e d id n ’t h av e t o h ik e u p a
mou nta in to le a rn th e n ex t le sso n ; it w as in an o u tc ro p w e co u ld
pra ctic a lly d riv e to b eca u se o f th ose e a rli e r m in in g o p era tio n s th at
pu lle d th e s o ft , w hit e m in era l fr o m th e e a rth . W e tr o op ed o n ly d ow n
a ra v in e a n d b ack u p b efo re c o m in g to a ro ck fa ce th at to ld a m ost
in tr ig u in g t a le .
Nea r th e b otto m o f th e ro ck fa ce w as a c o lle ctio n o f li g h t silv er,
ob lo n g sh ap es tw o to fo u r in ch es lo n g. Sca n nin g upw ard , th ese
sto p ped ab ru ptly an d w ere bord ere d by a fo ot of ro ck w it h th e
str a ig h t li n es o f b u ild in g se d im en t. T hen ca m e a la rg er are a w it h
fa n li k e p atte rn s, o n ce ag ain th e w av y varie ty gen era lly asso cia te d
wit h li f e . T hen a n oth er li n e o f s e d im en t. A nd s o it c o n tin u ed u p th e
ro ck f a ce .
Gro tz in ger ex p la in ed w hat w e w ere se ein g: T he b ea u tif u l, cu rv y
sh ap es w ere fo ssils o f s tr o m ato li t e s, m ost li k ely th e fir s t li f e -f o rm s o n
Earth th at co u ld le a v e b eh in d an actu al fo ssil. Str o m ato li t e s w ere
(a n d still a re in so m e lo ca le s) co lo n ie s o f sin gle -c e ll m ic ro b es th at
fo rm s tr u ctu re s la rg e a n d s m all b y c o lle ctin g p assin g s a n d a n d o th er
se d im en t. Those th um b-s h ap ed ou tli n es on th e botto m w ere a
partic u la r k in d o f s tr o m ato li t e a n d th e fa n s h ap es w ere a n oth er. T he

se d im en t li n es r e p re se n te d a tim e w hen th e s tr o m ato li t e s w ere g o n e,
an d th en th ey ap pea re d ag ain at la te r tim es in d if fe re n t fo rm s. If
Curio sit y c a m e a cro ss a n y M artia n s h ap es li k e th ese , G ro tz in ger s a id ,
sc ie n tis ts in t h e N ASA c o n tr o l c e n te r o n E arth w ou ld d ir e ct it t o b eg in
an i n te n siv e e x am in atio n .
But t h e c h an ce s o f c o m in g a cro ss t h is k in d o f u nden ia b ly b io lo gic a l
fo rm atio n a t G ale C ra te r a re n ot g re a t. T hat’s w hy G ro tz in ger h ad u s
hik e th e n ex t d ay u p to th e rid ge o f A sh H ill to d o so m e cla ssic
geo lo gy . W e a ll e x am in ed t h e r o ck s— as s c o re s o f g eo lo gy c la sse s h ad
don e b efo re u s o n th is so m ew hat ic o n ic rid ge— fo r u nu su al sh ap es,
gra in s iz e s, i n te ra ctio n s b etw een r o ck s, o r f a u lt s a n d m ay b e e v en f o r a
lo n g-a g o d ep osit o f o oli t e s, a fo rm o f se d im en ta ry ro ck w e h ad se en
on th e s id e o f th e h ill th e d ay b efo re . A s th eir n am e s u ggests , o oli t e s
are tin y w hit e sp h ere s th at lo ok, th ro u gh a fie ld m ag n if y in g g la ss, a
lo t li k e eg gs. T hey ’r e b ea u tif u l an d su ggestiv e o f b io lo gy , b u t are
en tir e ly t h e r e su lt o f in org an ic a ctiv it y . ( T hey ’r e a ls o s im ila r t o p ea rls
th at w ere o n ce cre a te d o u ts id e o f o yste rs a n d w it h ou t th e h elp o f
bio lo gy a t a ll.) If t h e o rig in s o f r o ck s a n d t h e d ep osit s in t h em c a n b e
so c o m ple x o n E arth — where y o u c a n a ctu ally p ic k u p a sp ecim en —
im ag in e w hat c h alle n ges m ig h t l i e a h ea d o n d is ta n t M ars .
A m orn in g o f g eo lo gy o n th e rid ge in tr o d u ce d u s to th e p le a su re s
an d c o m ple x it ie s o f r o ck la y erin g— th e s to rie s it c a n te ll, a n d th ose it
ca n hid e. The ou ts id es of ro ck s ch an ge as th ey w ea th er, so it ’s
im porta n t to b re a k th em o p en a n d se e th e o rig in al m ate ria l in sid e.
Curio sit y h as t h e a b ili t y t o b ru sh M artia n r o ck s a n d d rill a f e w in ch es
in to th em , a s w ell a s to za p th em w it h la se rs a n d re le a se o rig in al
fr a g m en ts a n d g ase s. B ut th ere w on ’t b e a n y a ctu al b re a k in g a p art o f
Martia n ro ck s u ntil an astr o n au t-g eo lo gis t arriv es so m etim e in th e
fu tu re . A s N ASA a n d M ars s c ie n tis ts s e e it , th at’s th e u lt im ate g o al o f
th eir effo rts , an d C urio sit y is a m ost im porta n t ex p lo re r an d fa ct
fin der o n t h e w ay t o t h at d is ta n t b u t m uch h op ed -f o r d ay .
We le ft A sh H ill hot an d su nbu rn ed bu t en th use d ab ou t w hat
Curio sit y m ig h t fin d. T he c o m bin atio n o f it s la n din g s it e w it h a ll t h at
ex p ose d ro ck n ea rb y, it s a b ili t y to ro ve fo r m ile s, a n d it s e x tr e m ely
hig h -t e ch p orta b le ch em is tr y la b s se em ed d estin ed to w rit e a n ew

ch ap te r in o u r u nders ta n din g o f th e p la n et in o u r so la r sy ste m m ost
li k e E arth .
And th en a dif fe re n t re a li t y in tr u ded . A s w e h ea d ed to a fin al
te a ch in g sit e , o n e o f th e th re e la rg e S U Vs in w hic h o u r p arty w as
rid in g su dden ly p u lle d o ff th e ro ad . A tir e h ad b lo w n o u t. W e w ere
still v ery m uch in t h e d ese rt a n d it w as b la zin g h ot, b u t a t ir e c h an ge
did n ’t s e em li k e s u ch a b ig o b sta cle . A t fir s t, th at is . B ut in th e n ew
Chev y S u bu rb an , fin din g th e e q u ip m en t to re m ove a tir e a n d th en
re tr ie v in g th e sp are is n o sim ple m atte r. In deed , fo r a h alf h ou r o r
more it s e em ed th at it w ou ld b e im possib le a n d w e’d h av e to c a ll fo r
help — if o n ly w e c o u ld g et a p h on e s ig n al in th e d ese rt. O ur jo u rn ey
to M ars -o n -E arth c a m e t o a d is q u ie tin g h alt .
The o b vio u s q u estio n t h at a ro se a s w e c o n sid ere d o u r s it u atio n w as
th is : W hat h ap pen s if C urio sit y b lo w s a tir e , o r so m eth in g sim ila r?
Here w e w ere — 17 very brig h t an d re so u rc e fu l peo p le — maro on ed
(te m pora rily ) in th e C ali f o rn ia dese rt an d str u ggli n g to
re tu rn to
norm al. W hat ca n be don e w hen so m eth in g sim ila r hap pen s to
Curio sit y , w hic h w ill b e a t le a st 1 27 m illi o n m ile s a w ay a n d c a n o n ly
re p air it s e lf v ia c o m pu te r c o m man ds? It w ill b e tr a v eli n g o n te rra in
stu die d b y s a te lli t e s fr o m a b ove, b u t s till u npre d ic ta b le . It s g o al is to
cli m b p artw ay u p M ou nt S h arp , a n d th at w ill m ea n so m e a w kw ard
man eu verin g f o r a v eh ic le t h e s iz e o f a n S U V.
As t h e N ASA t e a m o n t h e t r ip k n ew w ell, t h e m ost r e ce n t A m eric a n
ro ver o n M ars d id , in e ffe ct, b lo w a tir e — or th e ro ver e q u iv ale n t o f
th at. The wheels are actu ally wid e rin gs of fin e, li g h tw eig h t
alu m in u m d esig n ed to k eep th e r o ver fr o m s in kin g in s a n d, b u t th ey
are s u bje ct t o f a ilu re , t o o, a n d o n e w heel m oto r o n t h e p re cu rs o r, a n d
fa r sm alle r, ro ver Sp ir it d id w ea r o u t in 2 006. T hat le d to m uch
co n ste rn atio n a t th e tim e u ntil a w ork -a ro u nd w as c o n ce iv ed a n d th e
Sp ir it te a m dete rm in ed th at th e veh ic le w ou ld now m ove bette r
back w ard .
Lim pin g in re v ers e a ro u nd a n a re a k n ow n a s th e C olu m bia H ills ,
th e r o ver w it h it s d an gli n g w heel e n ded u p g ettin g s tu ck in th e s a n d.
Try in g to p u ll Sp ir it fr e e, th e te a m w as fo rc e d to sp in it s w heels
ag gre ssiv ely , in a w ay th at in it ia lly p ro ved u se le ss lo gis tic a lly b u t

beca m e in valu ab le sc ie n tif ic a lly . In fa ct, th e stu ck ro ver e v en tu ally
mad e w hat m ay w ell b e t h e m ost im porta n t s c ie n tif ic d is c o very o f t h e
mis sio n : D ig gin g th ro u gh th e cru st, it ex p ose d a ro ck d ep osit th at
tu rn ed o u t to b e a s u lf a te m in era l, ja ro sit e . It w as th e fir s t o f it s k in d
ev er fo u nd o n M ars a n d h ig h ly s ig n if ic a n t s in ce th at k in d o f m in era l
is f o rm ed o n ly i n t h e p re se n ce o f w ate r a n d o ft e n n ea rb y a s te a m v en t
—th e kin d of hyd ro th erm al activ it y th at co m es w it h vo lc a n oes.
Su lf a te m in era ls a re a n im porta n t clu e a b ou t th e M artia n p ast a n d
als o h ap pen to b e a sso cia te d w it h b oth h ab it a b le e n vir o n m en ts a n d
li f e it s e lf . A nd n ow w e k n ow a b ou t M artia n s u lf a te m in era ls — sim ply
beca u se o n e o f S p ir it ’s w heels b ro ke.
That w as a re a ssu rin g th ou gh t as w e so u gh t to ch an ge th e
Su bu rb an ’s tir e , an d ult im ate ly w e su cce ed ed . W ork in g th ro u gh
ad vers it y is p art o f li f e o n E arth — an d d efin it e ly o n M ars , to o. B ut
while a d vers it y c a n s e t a m is sio n b ack o n M ars , it c a n a ls o c re a te a n
op portu nit y .
Of c o u rs e , th at w ill b eco m e tr u e fo r C urio sit y o n ly a ft e r it sa fe ly
la n ds o n M ars , a n d t h e b lo w n t ir e g o t m e t h in kin g a b ou t t h e f a ct t h at
most m is sio n s to th e p la n et h av e a ctu ally fa ile d . T he U nit e d S ta te s,
th e fo rm er So vie t U nio n , R ussia , Ja p an , an d th e Euro p ea n Sp ace
Agen cy h av e se n t 4 3 m is sio n s to o rb it , fly b y, o r la n d o n M ars , a n d
more th an tw o-t h ir d s h av e fa ile d . O nly six o f th e d esc e n ts to th e
Martia n su rfa ce hav e su cce ed ed (la n ded an d co m ple te d th eir
mis sio n s) a n d th ey ’v e a ll b een flo w n b y N ASA — an a cco m pli s h m en t
oft e n l o st i n t h e p u bli c a sse ssm en t o f t h e a g en cy .
So , la n din g o n M ars is v ery h ard u nder t h e b est c o n dit io n s. A nd t h e
MSL /C urio sit y sp ace cra ft w ill re q u ir e n o sim ple la n din g— not th at
an y M artia n la n din g is re a lly sim ple . It w ill in vo lv e te ch nolo gy a n d
pro ce d u re s n ev er b efo re u se d o n M ars , a n d th e m arg in o f erro r is
sli m . N ASA o ffic ia ls a re c o n fid en t o f t h eir p la n , b u t t h at d oesn ’t m ea n
it w ill w ork . W hat h ap pen s if th e e q u iv ale n t o f a b lo w n tir e o ccu rs
du rin g e n tr y , d esc e n t, o r l a n din g?
Sin ce th e sp ace cra ft w ill e n te r th e M artia n a tm osp h ere a t 1 3,0 00
mile s a n h ou r a n d h as ju st s ix o r s e v en m in u te s to s lo w d ow n to th e
sp eed w here it c a n t o u ch d ow n g en tly a n d s a fe ly , t h e a n sw er is p re tty

ob vio u s. A ny e q u ip m en t fa ilu re o n e n tr y m ea n s o n e th in g o n ly : T he
dre a m s o f th e th ou sa n ds o f sc ie n tis ts an d en gin eers w ork in g w it h
Curio sit y c ra sh w it h th e r o ver a n d $ 2.5 b illi o n in ta x p ay er fu nds a re
lo st.
Cle a rly , w hen th ose se v en hig h -a n xie ty m in u te s of sp ace sh ip
re ck o n in g a rriv e o n A ugu st 6 , m an y p eo p le — in deed , a n atio n — will
be h old in g t h eir b re a th .

La n din g in sid e G ale C ra te r w ill in vo lv e t h e m ost c h alle n gin g d esc en t a n d t o u ch d ow n e v er o n
a n oth er p la n et. T he la n din g s it e is b etw een t h e w alls o f t h e c ra te r a n d t h re e-m ile -h ig h M ou n t S h arp
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )

The o n e-to n w eig h t o f t h e r o ver r e q u ir e s a n ew k in d o f la n din g t h at e n ds w it h a n u n pre c ed en te d
“sk y c ra n e” m an eu ver, g en tly d ro ppin g t h e t e th ere d C urio sit y f r o m a d esc en t s p a cec ra ft. T hat
veh ic le s ta ys a lo ft b y u sin g f o u r r e tr o -r o ck ets t o h over 6 6 f e et a bo ve t h e M artia n s u rfa ce
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )
NASA s e le c te d G ale C ra te r in p a rt b ec a u se it h as s o m uch e x po se d r o ck f a ce, w hic h g eo lo gis ts w ill

“re a d ” t o p ie c e t o geth er a h is to ry o f t h e p la n et. T his im age w as t a ken b y t h e r o ver O ppo rtu n it y a t
Vic to ria C ra te r
.
( N ASA /JP L/C orn ell)
Curio sit y p ro je c t s c ie n tis t J o h n G ro tz in ger e x pla in s h ow t o r e a d r o ck la yers in t h e N opa h R an ge o f
so u th ea ste rn C ali f o rn ia , a k in d o f M ars o n E arth
.
( M arc K au fm an )

The N opa h h ills a n d m ou n ta in s c o n ta in m an y f o ssili z ed s tr o m ato li t e s, la yers o f s e d im en t- c o lle c tin g
mic ro bia l m ats b eli e v ed t o b e t h e e a rli e st li f e -f o rm s o n E arth t o le a ve b eh in d a c le a r s ig n atu re .
Curio sit y is u n li k ely t o f in d s u ch a f o rm atio n , b u t a h in t o f a n yth in g s im ila r o n M ars w ou ld p ro m pt
an in te n siv e in vestig a tio n
.
( M arc K au fm an )

Curio sit y is la rg er, h ea vie r, a n d m ore s o ph is tic a te d t h an a n y r o bo tic v eh ic le e v er s e n t t o a n oth er
pla n et. F in al a sse m bly a n d t e stin g t o ok p la ce a t N ASA ’s J et P ro pu ls io n L a bo ra to ry in P asa d en a,
Cali f o rn ia
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )

I C HAPTER
T
WO
Lan din g t h e H ard W ay
mag in e y o u ’r e a n O ly m pic h ig h p la tfo rm d iv er. Y ou ’r e p la n nin g a
div e n ev er a tte m pte d b efo re , so m eth in g w it h m ore e le m en ts th an
b eli e v ed t o b e p ossib le a n d n o r o om f o r e rro r. Y ou h av e le ss t h an t w o
s e co n ds to m ak e all yo u r m oves, w hic h in clu de a uniq u e an d
d an gero u s e n tr y in to th e w ate r. A nd w hile y o u ’v e p ra ctic e d e a ch o f
t h e m an eu vers in div id u ally , yo u ’v e nev er had acce ss to th e hig h
p la tfo rm to a ctu ally p ra ctic e th e d iv e. T he d if fic u lt y fa cto r: 1 0.5 o u t
o f 1 0.
Now im ag in e y o u ’r e in c h arg e o f la n din g a $ 2.5 b illi o n sp ace cra ft
o n M ars th at is ca rry in g th e h op es an d p ossib ly th e fu tu re o f th e
n atio n ’s e n tir e M ars p ro gra m . Y ou a ls o h av e w hat a m ou nts t o s e co n ds
t o ex ecu te all yo u r m an eu vers — man y of th em untr ie d — an d yo u
b eg in y o u r en tr y in to th e M artia n atm osp h ere at 1 3,2 00 m ile s an
h ou r. W it h in six to se v en m in u te s, th e sp ace cra ft h as to p osit io n it s
h ea t s h ie ld s o it c a n b lo ck th e fu ll 3 ,5 00-d eg re e b la st o f fr ic tio n h ea t
t h at w ill d o m uch o f t h e s lo w in g; it w ill m ak e t h re e b ro ad S c u rv es t o
c o rre ct it s t r a je cto ry t o w ard t h e la n din g s it e ; a s o la r p ara ch ute h as t o
p ro p erly o p en a n d o p era te ; d oze n s o f r o ck ets a n d p yro te ch nic d ev ic e s
l a rg e a n d s m all h av e to fir e c o rre ctly to fu rth er s lo w th e c a p su le a n d
b la st fr e e th ose co m pon en ts no lo n ger need ed ; an d an ad dit io n al
v eh ic le tu ck ed in to th e o rig in al c a p su le m ust b e d eta ch ed so it c a n
d ro p f u rth er a n d p osit io n i t s e lf a n d b eg in a r o ck et-p ow ere d h over.
But y o u ’r e s till n ot d on e, b eca u se th at h overc ra ft n ow m ust r e le a se
t h e C urio sit y r o ver i t s e lf a n d, u sin g t h re e t e th ers , l o w er i t d ow n t o t h e
M artia n su rfa ce . S in ce th e ro ver-r o b ot is h ea d ed fo r a sit e in sid e a
c ra te r, th e la n din g e lli p se h as to b e s m alle r th an a n y s e le cte d b efo re

—by a lo t. A nd unli k e th e O ly m pic div er, th e ro ver is sp eed in g
to w ard n ot w ate r b u t v ery h ard r o ck .
“Y es, t h in kin g a b ou t a ll t h e t h in gs t h at h av e t o g o r ig h t is t e rrif y in g
—I c a n ’t d en y it ,” a d m it s A dam S te lt z n er, N ASA ’s c h ie f e n gin eer fo r
th e e n tr y , d esc e n t, a n d la n din g, a n d o n e o f a h an dfu l o f in tr e p id s o u ls
who c a m e u p w it h t h e C urio sit y la n din g f o rm ula . “ W hen w e p ro p ose d
th is p la n , w e w ere alm ost la u gh ed off th e p ro je ct. P eo p le sa id it
co u ld n ’t p ossib ly w ork . W ell, w e n ow h av e a r is k a n aly sis t h at s a y s it
has a 9 9 p erc e n t li k eli h ood o f su cce ed in g. T hat’s h ig h er th an an y
Mars la n der th at’s flo w n b efo re . R ea ssu rin g, fo r su re , b u t w it h a b ig
ca v ea t: T hat lo w r is k a ssu m es a ll t h e p arts w ill o p era te a n d d ep lo y a s
th ey sh ou ld . G iv en th e c ir c u m sta n ce s a n d e sse n tia l tim in g o f a ll th e
man eu vers , w e’r e d efin it e ly a sk in g a lo t.
That
’s w hat k eep s m e u p a t
nig h t.”
The la n din gs a re so d if fic u lt in p art b eca u se th e th in a tm osp h ere
mak es fo r a su per-s p eed y d ro p , an d sli g h t ch an ges in atm osp h eric
co n dit io n s c a n q u ic k ly tu rn a p ic tu re -p erfe ct la n din g in to a d is a ste r.
There ’s n o o p portu nit y to fin e-t u ne th e la n din g fr o m E arth w hile it
pla y s o u t b eca u se o f th e tim e la g o f a b ou t 1 4 m in u te s b etw een w hen
so m eth in g h ap pen s o n M ars a n d w hen M is sio n C on tr o l le a rn s a b ou t
it . In o th er w ord s, th e la n din g w ill b e su cce ssfu lly o r u nsu cce ssfu lly
co m ple te d b efo re N ASA M is sio n C on tr o l k n ow s f o r s u re it h as s ta rte d .
Overa ll d if fic u lt y fa cto r fo r th e d esc e n t a n d la n din g: Y ou d on ’t w an t
to k n ow .
The n eed f o r s u ch a c o m ple x la n din g is s tr a ig h tfo rw ard : C urio sit y is
much la rg er a n d m uch h ea v ie r th an a n y o f it s p re d ece sso rs . S o m e
hav e li k en ed th is in cre a se in siz e a n d w eig h t to a k in d o f “ m on ste r
SU V” e ffe ct a n d su sp ect th at N ASA h as fa lle n in to a b ig ger-is -b ette r
way o f th in kin g. B ut a ctu ally , th e e x tr a w eig h t is d u e to th e fa ct th at
Curio sit y w ill ca rry to M ars b oth an o rg an ic ch em is tr y la b an d a
geo ch em is tr y la b , e a ch fa r m ore c o m ple x a n d c a p ab le th an a n yth in g
deli v ere d t o t h e s u rfa ce b efo re . I t w ill a ls o h av e a m uch la rg er r o b otic
arm w it h m ore to ols to do geo lo gy w ork . A nd it need s a stu rd y
ch assis to m ove a ro u nd a n d c li m b M ou nt S h arp . B y th em se lv es, th e
te n sc ie n ce in str u m en ts to geth er w eig h on ly 165 pou nds an d are

marv els of co m pactio n . But th e str u ctu re need ed to deli v er an d
pro te ct th em still m ak es C urio sit y — at 1 0 fe et lo n g, 7 fe et h ig h , a n d
alm ost 2 ,0 00 p ou nds— tw ic e as la rg e an d m ore th an fiv e tim es as
hea v y a s th e tw o ro vers cu rre n tly o n M ars , O pportu nit y a n d S p ir it
(5 .2 f e et l o n g, 4 .9 f e et h ig h , a n d 3 75 p ou nds).
Those e a rli e r r o vers w ere d ro p ped o n to M ars w ra p ped in la rg e a n d
hig h ly e n gin eere d p ro te ctiv e “ a ir b ag s,” a n d S te lt z n er a n d h is te a m
very m uch w an te d to use th at la n din g arc h it e ctu re ag ain . But
Curio sit y h ad o u tg ro w n t h at t e ch nolo gy , a n d la n din g in sid e t h e c ra te r
re q u ir e d a d if fe re n t le v el o f a ccu ra cy . S o C urio sit y h ad to a rriv e o n
Mars d if fe re n tly — le a d in g t o t h ose s ix o r s e v en “ m in u te s o f t e rro r,” a s
th e l a n din g i s o ft e n d esc rib ed .
On it s w ay dow n th ro u gh 80 m ile s of M artia n atm osp h ere ,
Curio sit y w ill m ak e u se o f a t le a st th re e te ch nolo gie s o r p ro ce d u re s
nev er b efo re tr ie d o n M ars . T he fir s t is “ g u id ed e n tr y ,” a p ro ce ss b y
whic h t h e c a p su le c a n r e p osit io n it s e lf b ase d o n c h an ged a tm osp h eric
co n dit io n s. T his is n ece ssa ry a s p art o f th e fir s t p h ase o f th e d esc e n t,
when th e e n tr y c a p su le tu rn s s o it s h ea t s h ie ld ta k es th e fu ll fo rc e o f
th e f r ic tio n . I f t h e t u rn is s li g h tly t o o s h arp , t h e c a p su le d ro p s t o o f a st
an d m ost li k ely cra sh es. If it ’s to o fla t, th en th e ca p su le rid es th e
atm osp h ere b ou ndary to o fa r an d sk ip s w ell p ast it s la n din g sit e .
Sin ce h um an s c a n ’t m ak e t h e t w ea k s i n r e a l t im e n eed ed t o m ak e s u re
th e hea t sh ie ld is pro p erly posit io n ed , th e co m pu te rs ab oard th e
ca p su le hav e to do th e jo b . A m ore ru dim en ta ry vers io n of th is
te ch nolo gy w as u se d w hen t h e A pollo c a p su le s
re tu rn ed t o E arth f r o m
th e m oon b ack in th e la te 1 960s a n d 1 970s, b u t it h asn ’t b een u se d
sin ce a n d c e rta in ly n ev er o n f a ra w ay M ars .
The d esc e n t w ill als o u se re tr o -r o ck ets in an en tir e ly n ew w ay .
Aft e r b ein g s lo w ed d ow n s ig n if ic a n tly b y th e fo rc e o f th e a tm osp h ere
on th e h ea t sh ie ld a n d th e d ep lo yin g o f a su pers o n ic p ara ch ute , a
fin al “ p ow ere d d esc e n t v eh ic le ” s ta g e b eg in s t h at w ill b rin g t h e r o ver
an d it s c a rrie r t o a h eig h t o f a b ou t 6 0 fe et a b ove t h e M artia n s u rfa ce .
Eig h t ro ck ets (c a lle d M ars Lan der Engin es) are use d to slo w th e
pow ere d d esc e n t t o a n ea r h alt a n d a llo w t h e d u o t o h over. A dvan ce d
th ro ttle a b le e n gin es w ere u se d o n th e V ik in g m is sio n s in 1 976, b u t

not s in ce t h en o n M ars . A nd t h ey w ere n ev er u se d t o p ro vid e t h e k in d
of h overin g p la tfo rm r e q u ir e d f o r t h is l a n din g.
Aft e r a s e v era l- s e co n d h over, a s e t o f p yro te ch nic b olt s a re fir e d to
deta ch th e ro ver fr o m th e desc e n t sh ell. By th en , Curio sit y has
ch an ged fr o m it s sto w ed fli g h t co n fig u ra tio n an d op en ed up to
pre p are fo r la n din g. B ut t h e d esc e n t v eh ic le is s till s o m e 6 0 fe et fr o m
th e g ro u nd, a n d t h at’s w hen t h e m ost n ovel ( a n d c o n tr o vers ia l) a sp ect
of th e la n din g c o m men ce s: th e “sk y c ra n e” m an eu ver. T he ro ver is
co n necte d to th e h overc ra ft b y th re e n ylo n te th ers an d a li n e fo r
pow er an d co m munic a tio n s, an d th e te th ers are re le a se d to allo w
Martia n g ra v it y t o p u ll C urio sit y s lo w ly t o t h e g ro u nd. I f a ll g o es w ell,
th ere w ill b e o n e to n o f ro ver, d an gli n g o n th re e te th ers , in ch in g it s
way t o t h e s u rfa ce . W hen it fin ally h it s , it w ill b e fa lli n g a t a b ou t 1 .7
mile s a n h ou r.
In k eep in g w it h th e m is sio n in stin ct to p u sh th e e n velo p e, fo r th e
fir s t t im e t h e d esc e n t— or m ore p re cis e ly , it s la st 1 00 s e co n ds o r s o —
will b e r e co rd ed c o n tin u ou sly a n d in c o lo r fr o m th e s p ace cra ft it s e lf .
The M SL M ars D esc e n t Im ag er ( M ARD I) w ill b e tu ck ed in o n th e s till
sto w ed r o ver, b u t t h e c a m era w ill b e e x p ose d w hen t h e h ea t s h ie ld is
re le a se d an d w ill film th at fin al ph ase of th e desc e n t. M ARD I is
im porta n t beca u se it w ill sh ow M is sio n Con tr o l ex actly
where
Curio sit y i s , b u t i t a ls o w ill p ro vid e d ra m atic f o ota g e o f t h at s k y-c ra n e
fin ale — if it su cce ed s, th at is . P la n s fo r th e in str u m en t w ere a ctu ally
sc ra p ped b y N ASA se v era l yea rs ag o to re d u ce co sts , b u t M ic h ael
Mali n o f M ali n Sp ace Scie n ce Sy ste m s d ecid ed to fin is h th e w ork
wit h ou t a d dit io n al p ay . T he m an b eh in d m an y o f th e c a m era s th at
hav e f lo w n t o M ars , M ali n ju st c o u ld n ’t l e t t h e o p portu nit y p ass.
The e n tir e e n tr y , d esc e n t, a n d la n din g is c h ore o gra p h ed d ow n to
th e se co n d a n d co d ed in to th e tw o re d u ndan t co m pu te rs o n board .
One s m all m alf u nctio n o r d efe ct, a n d C urio sit y w ill b eco m e a n o b je ct
le sso n in m is sio n h ubris ra th er th an th e m ost re m ark ab le p la n eta ry
mis sio n e v er. A s t h e M SL t e a m is w on t t o s a y , t h e d if fe re n ce b etw een
fo lly a n d g re a tn ess is sm all w hen y o u ’r e tr y in g to d o so m eth in g o n
th is sc a le . If peo p le don ’t th in k yo u r id ea s are rid ic u lo u s at th e
beg in nin g, th ey s a y , th en y o u ’r e n ot r e a lly c o m in g u p w it h a n yth in g

new .
But s o m an y t h in gs h av e t o g o ju st r ig h t f o r C urio sit y t o la n d s a fe ly :
The c a p su le h as t o f ir s t e n te r t h e M artia n a tm osp h ere a t ju st t h e r ig h t
an gle , it h as to m ak e th re e la rg e S tu rn s a s it m an eu vers to g et th e
hea t sh ie ld in th e c o rre ct p la ce , it h as to d ep lo y th e p ara ch ute (th e
la rg est e v er u se d ) a t p re cis e ly th e r ig h t m om en t, th e r o ck ets h av e to
fir e p erfe ctly , 7 6 p yro te ch nic b olt s h av e to e x p lo d e a n d re le a se , a n d
th en th e ro ver h as to m ak e th at u npre ce d en te d h over a n d sk y-c ra n e
la n din g.
“W e k n ow th e s k y-c ra n e m an eu ver lo oks c ra zy ,” S te lt z n er s a y s. “ It
ev en lo oks cra zy to us. But it ’s th e re su lt of ca re fu l, re a so n ed
en gin eerin g t h ou gh t, a n d w e h av e b een b ea tin g o n it f r o m o u ts id e f o r
alm ost a d eca d e. It h old s u p re a lly w ell, a n d w e’v e so lv ed a ll th e
pro b le m s w e k n ew a b ou t w it h t h is c o n fig u ra tio n .
“A nd th en fo r to u ch dow n, w e h av e an ap pro ach fu ndam en ta lly
desig n ed to la n d o n M ars te rra in . T he w heels a re w id e a n d m ad e o f
th in a lu m in u m , a n d s o a re r e a lly p art o f t h e la n din g s y ste m . B ut
what
mak es th is la n din g p ossib le is th e s im ple a n d w on derfu l fa ct th at w e
kn ow so m uch m ore ab ou t M ars n ow an d h av e im ag es o f alm ost
ev ery r o ck a n d b ou ld er i n G ale C ra te r.” C urio sit y c o u ld g ro w s o m uch
big ger a n d m ore c o m pli c a te d o n ly b eca u se o f a ll th at’s b een le a rn ed
fr o m t h e la n ders a n d o rb it e rs g o in g b ack t o M arin er a n d V ik in g in t h e
1960s a n d 1 970s.
Talk in g w it h en gin eers an d sc ie n tis ts at N ASA ’s Je t Pro p u ls io n
Lab ora to ry ( J P L) s e v era l m on th s b efo re la n din g, it b eco m es a p pare n t
th at past m is sio n s lo om very la rg e— not on ly beca u se of th at
kn ow le d ge gain ed ab ou t M ars bu t als o beca u se th e past m is sio n s
battle -t e ste d th e M SL /C urio sit y sta ff. Ste lt z n er help ed desig n th e
en tr y a n d la n din g s y ste m fo r th e tw o N ASA r o vers n ow o n M ars , a n d
sc o re s o f o th er k ey p la y ers fo r C urio sit y w ork ed o n th ose ro vers , o n
th e P hoen ix la n der m is sio n , o n t h e f ir s t P ath fin der r o ver, a n d e v en o n
Apollo , b eca u se o f th at g u id ed -e n tr y te ch nolo gy . S o w hen th e E D L
(E ntr y , D esc e n t, a n d L an din g) te a m m eets to m on it o r h ow th e c ra ft
an d ro ver a re d oin g o n th eir w ay to M ars a n d to m ak e a n y m in or
co rre ctio n s deem ed use fu l, th ey hav e m an y co m bin ed deca d es of

Mars e x p erie n ce i n t h e r o om .
The m an re sp on sib le fo r th e overa ll d esig n an d p erfo rm an ce of
MSL /C urio sit y is th e ch ie f en gin eer, R ob M an nin g. H e w as a key
pla y er in Mars la n der an d ro ver mis sio n s in clu din g
Path fin der/ S o jo u rn er (1 997), th e fo llo w -o n M ars e x p lo ra tio n ro vers
(2 004), a n d t h e P hoen ix la n der ( 2 008), a s it w as h is jo b t o s ig n o ff o n
ev ery te ch nic a l a sp ect o f th e M SL m is sio n a n d, a s th e s p ace cra ft fle w
to M ars , to k eep th e J P L M is sio n C on tr o l o n it s to es. W it h a c e rta in
gle e, h e sp oke o f th e h id den “ v ir tu al” g re m li n s h e w as p la n nin g fo r
th e a ll- h an ds-o n -d eck d esc e n t a n d la n din g r e h ea rs a ls a s t h e s p ace cra ft
ap pro ach ed M ars , in th e e x p ecta tio n th at th e sta ff w ou ld fin d th em
befo re t h e m is sio n e n ded i n ( v ir tu al) d is a ste r.
“T he w hole te a m c o m es in fo r fo u r o r fiv e d ay s a n d w e w ork th e
te st b ed a s if it w as M ars ,” M an nin g e x p la in s. “ I c o u ld k ill
th e m is sio n
fo r su re , b u t th at’s n ot th e p oin t. W e w an t p eo p le to u nders ta n d
pro b le m s a n d f ig u re o u t w hat t o d o. T he u nit o f t e st h ere i s h um an s.”
And t h ey a re n ot r e a lly w ho y o u m ig h t im ag in e t h ey w ou ld b e. J P L
ca n lo ok m ore li k e a c o lle g e c a m pu s th an th e b u tto n ed -d ow n N ASA
fa cili t y o f o ld . A m on g th e to p e n gin eers a n d o p era tio n s m an ag ers a re
on e w it h s m all m eta l h oop s in h is e a rs a n d a h is to ry o f p la y in g in a
ro ck b an d (S te lt z n er), a n oth er w it h a fla ir fo r p la y in g ja zz tr u m pet
wit h h is tw in b ro th er (M an nin g), a th ir d w it h a n ew born b ab y at
hom e b ein g c a re d fo r b y h er r e tir e d A ir F o rc e h usb an d ( M SL s u rfa ce
mis sio n m an ag er Je n nif e r Tro sp er)— brilli a n t peo p le w it h str o n g
pers o n ali t ie s w ho n on eth ele ss h av e to w ork in tim ate ly to geth er a s a
te a m .
How d o t h ey k eep f r o m c ra ck in g u nder t h e p re ssu re ? M an nin g s a y s
th at t h e s e v era l a ll- h an ds-o n -d eck o p era tio n al r e a d in ess t e sts ( O RT) a t
JP L h elp w it h b oth m ain ta in in g p ro d u ctiv e f o cu s a n d r e h ea rs in g r o le s
until th ey b eco m e s e co n d n atu re . “ W e d on ’t d o a lo t o f th em , b u t w e
do e n ou gh s o t h at b y t h e t im e o f t h e a ctu al la n din g, it ’s v ery h ard fo r
yo u r m in d to te ll th e d if fe re n ce b etw een th e r e a l th in g a n d th e O RT.
At le a st fo r m e. I c a n r e m ain c a lm b eca u se m y b ra in k eep s t e lli n g m e
th at t h is is ju st a n oth er O RT. O f c o u rs e , w hen a r e a l im ag e f r o m M ars
go es s tr e a m in g i n , t h at i m pre ssio n v an is h es.”

As a v ete ra n o f n u m ero u s M ars fli g h ts , in clu din g se v era l th at d id
not s u cce ed , M an nin g a ls o tr ie s to a lw ay s r e m em ber th at h e a n d th e
oth ers a re in vo lv ed in b oth a g re a t sc ie n tif ic e n dea v o r a n d w hat is
“sim ply , m assiv ely , a cre a tiv e arts pro je ct— a vast m ura l wit h
hundre d s o f p ain te rs p ain tin g w it h a s in gle o vera ll d efin in g o b je ctiv e,
bu t w ork in g o n v astly d if fe re n t p ath w ay s … W e a re v ery lu ck y to b e
allo w ed t o a tte m pt t h is .”
Ult im ate ly , th ere ’s a li m it e d a m ou nt th ey c a n d o d u rin g th e e n tr y
it s e lf , a n d s o t h e f in e-t u nin g f o cu se s o n t h e s p ace cra ft c o m pu te r
co d es
an d th e cra ft ’s p osit io n a s it a p pro ach es M ars . B ut th ere a re li m it s
th ere as w ell. W hile all th e parts of M SL /C urio sit y hav e been
ag gre ssiv ely te ste d , o n e o f th e so b erin g tr u th s o f th e m is sio n is th at
th e h air -r a is in g d esc e n t a n d la n din g it s e lf c o u ld n ’t b e t e ste d o n E arth .
The a tm osp h ere s o f th e tw o p la n ets a re so d if fe re n t th at te stin g th e
half doze n m in u te s of te rro r w ou ld be as u se le ss as it w ou ld be
im possib le .
“W e th in k th ere ’s a re a lly g o od ch an ce th is w ill w ork , b u t a s a
co m ple te sy ste m it ’s n ev er b een te ste d ,” sa y s M an nin g, w it h a lo ok
th at su ggests he is aw are th at he has ju st deli v ere d so m e qu it e
su rp ris in g n ew s. “W e’v e sim ula te d th e p ossib le p ro b le m s a s p art o f
te sts , b u t n on e c o u ld b e c a lle d
th e
t e st.
“T hat h ap pen s o n A ugu st 6 .”

I C HAPTER
T
HREE
The S cie n ce a n d T ra v els o f C urio sit y
s th e p ow er w ork in g? D o w e h av e c o m munic a tio n ? Is th e r o ver o n
sta b le g ro u nd?
A su cce ssfu l la n din g o f C urio sit y w ill se t o ff ju bila tio n a t M is sio n
C on tr o l at JP L an d in ob se rv ato rie s an d la b s, go vern m en t an d
i n du str y o ffic e s, an d h om es aro u nd th e glo b e. B ut th en th e sm all
a rm y o f s c ie n tis ts a n d e n gin eers ta sk ed w it h o p era tin g th e r o ver w ill
q u ic k ly m ove on to th e actu al w ork at h an d: D ete rm in in g if th e
v eh ic le la n ded w it h it s e sse n tia l sy ste m s in ta ct. If th ey a re w ork in g,
t h en c o m es a g ra d u al u nfo ld in g, d ep lo yin g, a n d r e v vin g u p o f t h e t e n
s c ie n ce i n str u m en ts a n d c a m era s t h at a re C urio sit y ’s r e a so n f o r b ein g.
It ’s a pro ce ss th at w ill ta k e day s, an d in so m e ca se s w eek s or
m on th s. B ut th e M SL te a m w ill k n ow so on w heth er th e k ey p ow er
a n d c o m munic a tio n sy ste m s h av e su sta in ed a n y d am ag e d u rin g th e
3 52-m illi o n -m ile jo u rn ey o r d u rin g t h e h ig h -w ir e l a n din g.
Com munic a tio n is la rg ely acco m pli s h ed th ro u gh re la y s to th re e
s a te lli t e s o rb it in g M ars o r t h ro u gh t h e D eep S p ace N etw ork , a s y ste m
o f g ia n t in te rc o n necte d a n te n na d is h es in M ad rid , S p ain ; C an berra ,
A ustr a li a ; a n d th e M oja v e D ese rt. A ssu m in g th at c o m munic a tio n s a re
e sta b li s h ed , th e fir s t o rd er o f b u sin ess w ill b e to v erif y th e h ea lt h o f
t h e sm all nu cle a r batte ry th at w ill pro vid e pow er fo r th e ro ver.
C urio sit y ca rrie s te n pou nds of plu to n iu m -2 38 dio xid e as a hea t
s o u rc e , w hic h is th en u se d to p ro d u ce th e o n board
ele ctr ic it y n eed ed
t o m ove th e ro ver, op era te th e in str u m en ts , an d keep th e fr ig id
n ig h ttim e c o ld a t b ay .
If all is w ell, w hat fo llo w s w ill be a hig h ly ch ore o gra p h ed
u npack in g of th e ro ver. Fir s t th e m ast go es u p, w it h it s su it e of

ca m era s. W ea th er a n d ra d ia tio n m on it o rin g in str u m en ts a re tu rn ed
on , a s w ell a s th e la se r-c a m era c o m bin atio n th at c a n z a p r o ck s u p to
23 fe et a w ay a n d ta k e r e a d in gs o f th e “ e x cit e d ” g ase s r e le a se d in th e
pro ce ss.
By “ so l 1 0” (“ d ay 1 0”— ea ch M artia n s o la r d ay , k n ow n a s a s o l, is
24.6 6 h ou rs lo n g), a ll t e n in str u m en ts s h ou ld h av e b een s ta rte d u p t o
se e if th ey ’r e w ork in g, an d C urio sit y is sc h ed u le d to ta k e it s fir s t
te n ta tiv e s te p s— kin d o f li k e s h ak in g o n e’s le g s to g et r id o f th e p in s
an d n eed le s a ft e r a lo n g jo u rn ey . O nly a ro u nd s o l 3 0 w ill th e s e v en -
fo ot r o b otic a rm b e te ste d , g ra b bin g M artia n s o il fo r th e fir s t tim e to
cru sh an d deli v er to th e tw o ro ver min i- la b ora to rie s— Sam ple
Analy sis a t M ars ( S A M ) a n d C hem is tr y a n d M in era lo gy ( C heM in ).
All t h e w hile , s c ie n tis ts w ill b e d ete rm in in g e x actly w here C urio sit y
is in re la tio n to b oth th e w alls o f th e 8 0-m ile -d ia m ete r G ale C ra te r
an d th e th re e-m ile -h ig h M ou nt Sh arp in th e m id dle of it s huge
dep re ssio n . G ra d u ally , th e s c ie n ce te a m w ill ta k e m ore c o n tr o l o f th e
mis sio n a n d a d dre ss t h e f ir s t b ig q u estio n s: W here s h ou ld C urio sit y b e
hea d ed ? A nd th en , w hic h ro ck s sh ou ld b e sa m ple d ? W here d oes th e
so il lo ok esp ecia lly in te re stin g an d w orth y of a fu ll an d tim e-
co n su m in g e x am in atio n ?
“W e’l l h av e a b ou t tw o h undre d to th re e h undre d s c ie n tis ts o n s it e
at J P L, a n d I c a n a ssu re y o u it w ill b e b oth fa sc in atin g a n d g ru eli n g,”
sa y s J o y C ris p , d ep u ty p ro je ct s c ie n tis t fo r th e M SL p ro je ct. “ W e’l l b e
work in g 1 6-h ou r d ay s fo r th ose fir s t m on th s, a n d w e’l l b e e n tir e ly o n
Mars tim e.” T hat m ea n s th e d ata a n d in str u ctio n s c o m in g a n d g o in g
to C urio sit y a re p u sh ed 4 0 m in u te s la te r e a ch d ay to c o m pen sa te fo r
th e e x tr a le n gth o f th e M ars so l. E ven tu ally ,
th e JP L te a m w ill b e
hav in g sc ie n ce m eetin gs a n d m ak in g d ecis io n s a b ou t th e n ex t d ay ’s
in str u ctio n s a n d a ctiv it ie s a t 3 :0 0 i n t h e m orn in g.
But se ld om in h um an h is to ry h as sc ie n ce h ad a n o p portu nit y th is
gra n d. C urio sit y w ill b e lo okin g fo r th e c a rb on -b ase d b u ild in g b lo ck s
of li f e , u sin g in str u m en ts th at h av e a g o od c h an ce o f fin din g th em if
th ey ’r e p re se n t; it w ill b e s e a rc h in g fo r h ab it a ts th at c o u ld h av e o n ce
su pporte d li f e ; a n d ju st p ossib ly it w ill fin d so m e b io sig n atu re s th at
sh ow , o r a t le a st s tr o n gly s u ggest, t h at M ars w as in deed o n ce h om e t o

li v in g t h in gs.
It ’s in te rp la n eta ry f o re n sic s a t it s m ost c o m ple x a n d e x cit in g, a k in d
of
CSI: M ars
. W hile it ’s c o n ce iv ab le th at C urio sit y w ill a ctu ally c o m e
acro ss th e sig n atu re o f a lo n g d ece a se d li f e -f o rm , th at is c o n sid ere d
hig h ly u nli k ely g iv en th e c o ld , d ry , a n d h ig h ly ir ra d ia te d su rfa ce o f
th e p la n et a n d th e c h oic e o f a n ow -p arc h ed c ra te r a s a la n din g sit e .
So th e g o al o f C urio sit y is to c o lle ct c lu es a b ou t w hat h as h ap pen ed
over t h e e o n s a t G ale C ra te r— it s h is to ry a s r e co rd ed i n t h e la y erin g o f
ro ck s, t h e p re se n ce o f t e llt a le m in era ls , a n d t h e c h em ic a ls t h at f ill t h e
atm osp h ere a n d r o ck f a ce s.
Fo r in sta n ce , s c ie n tis ts k n ow fr o m s a te lli t e im ag in g t h at s u bsta n tia l
am ou nts o f w ate r w ere o n ce p re se n t in t h e d esic ca te d c ra te r. B ut h ow
much ? W as th ere a la k e, a riv er, a se t of m ud or cla y fla ts — or
possib ly all of th e ab ove at dif fe re n t tim es? A nd du rin g w hic h
Martia n era s w as th e w ate r pre se n t, an d w hat m ig h t hav e been
dis so lv ed in it ? C urio sit y h as th e in str u m en ts to p ote n tia lly a n sw er
th ese q u estio n s.
Wit h li q u id w ate r b ro ad ly co n fir m ed as h av in g o n ce ex is te d o n
Mars , N ASA is re a d y to m ove b ey o n d it s “fo llo w th e w ate r” g am e
pla n to a n ew o n e: “ F o llo w th e c a rb on .” T hat e le m en t in it s m yria d
fo rm s a n d c o m bin atio n s is e sse n tia l a n d c e n tr a l to li f e a s w e k n ow it
—se rv in g as th e org an iz in g su bsta n ce to all org an ic co m pou nds,
in clu din g am in o acid s, pro te in s, nu cle o b ase s, an d oth er bu ild in g
blo ck s o f l i f e .
Ancie n t o rg an ic s in ro ck a re fa m ou sly h ard to fin d e v en o n E arth ,
where s a m ple s c a n b e s tu die d e x te n siv ely i n l a b s. S o , w hen e x p la in in g
Curio sit y ’s s e a rc h f o r o rg an ic s o n t h e w ay b ack f r o m o u r D ea th V alle y
fie ld t r ip , M SL s c ie n ce le a d er J o h n G ro tz in ger w as e a g er t o d ow npla y
ex p ecta tio n s. “ W e d o h av e a c h an ce o f fin din g o rg an ic s, b u t it ’s v ery ,
very h ard to d o. W e’l l n eed b oth e x tr e m ely sa v vy w ork , a n d so m e
go od l u ck .”
The li k eli h ood th at C urio sit y w ill su cce ed in it s org an ic s qu est
re m ain s so m eth in g o f a lo n g sh ot. M uch o f th e ro ck o n M ars is n ot
kn ow n f o r p re se rv in g o rg an ic s, a n d t h e s u rfa ce is b om bard ed d aily b y
co sm ic r a d ia tio n ( w hic h o n E arth i s d efle cte d b y o u r a tm osp h ere ) t h at

may d estr o y M artia n o rg an ic s.
That sa id , o rg an ic s ce rta in ly fa ll o n th e M artia n su rfa ce , b eca u se
th ey a re e v ery w here in sp ace a n d fa ll o n E arth in la rg e a m ou nts in
th e fo rm o f m ete o rit e s a n d co sm ic d u st. P re v io u s M ars e x p lo ra tio n
ca m e u p s h ort in te rm s o f fin din g o rg an ic s, le a d in g s o m e to c o n clu de
th at t h e p la n et c o u ld n ev er h av e s u pporte d l i f e .
But w hat if t h e in str u m en ts u se d in t h e p ast w ere ju st n ot u p t o t h e
ta sk o f fin din g th e e lu siv e o rg an ic s? A nd w hat if so m eth in g in th e
Martia n a tm osp h ere o r o n th e su rfa ce d estr o ys o rg an ic s, o r m od if ie s
th em i n u nex p ecte d w ay s? C urio sit y c a n p ro vid e s o m e a n sw ers .
Scie n tis ts a re a ls o e a g er to k n ow th e k in ds o f m in era ls fo rm ed in
th e G ale Cra te r w ate r an d w hen th at m in era li z a tio n to ok pla ce .
Know in g both w ill h elp th em u nders ta n d th e n atu re of th e qu it e
possib ly d eep w ate rs th at o n ce fille d th e c ra te r, a n d h ow li k ely it is
th at th e cra te r’s ro ck s h av e pre se rv ed an y org an ic (c a rb on -b ase d )
mate ria l.
The sc ie n tis ts are hop efu l beca u se su lf u r-b ase d , or “su lf a te ,”
min era ls su ch a s ja ro sit e a n d g y p su m a re p re se n t o n M ars a n d a re
well k n ow n fo r p re se rv in g o rg an ic s. T he s a m e is tr u e o f s ili c o n -b ase d
ph yllo sili c a te s a n d c la y s, w hic h h av e a ls o b een id en tif ie d o n M ars . If
pre se n t a t G ale C ra te r, C urio sit y h as th e w here w it h al to fin d th em .
(S u lf a te s, p h yllo sili c a te s, a n d c la y s a re a ls o k n ow n to g en era lly fo rm
on ly in li q u id w ate r th at is n ot to o a cid ic a n d n ot to o a lk ali n e— th e
sa m e k in ds o f c o n dit io n s t h at s u pport l i f e .)
The q u estio n o f M artia n o rg an ic s h as g o tte n e v en m ore in te re stin g
wit h in ju st a fe w m on th s o f t h e la n din g. R ese a rc h er A ndre w S te ele o f
th e C arn eg ie In stit u tio n of W ash in gto n (a n d m em ber of th e M SL
sc ie n ce te a m ) an d co lle a g u es pu bli s h ed a pap er th at id en tif ie d
ca rb on -b ase d o rg an ic s in a n u m ber o f M artia n m ete o rit e s th at h ad
been c o lle cte d o n E arth . H is te a m c o n clu ded th at th e o rg an ic s w ere
not c re a te d th ro u gh b io lo gic a l p ro ce sse s b u t ra th er th ro u gh v o lc a n ic
activ it y . N on eth ele ss, Ste ele sa id th e pre se n ce of org an ic s— fir m ly
esta b li s h ed fo r th e fir s t tim e— in cre a se s th e p ossib ili t y o f M ars o n ce
bein g h ab it a b le a n d e v en i n h ab it e d .
The h ea rt o f th e ro ver is p ro b ab ly S A M , th e S am ple A naly sis o n

Mars . W it h m ore th an a th ir d o f a m ile o f w ir in g cra m med in to a
go ld -c o vere d box th e siz e of a mic ro w av e oven , SA M hold s
min ia tu riz e d eq u ip m en t th at w ou ld norm ally ta k e up m ost of a
la b ora to ry ro om o n E arth . N on eth ele ss, it ca n h ea t p u lv eriz e d a n d
pow dere d s a m ple s u p t o 1 800°F o n ju st 4 0 w atts o f p ow er, a n d in t h e
pro ce ss it c a n d ete ct a fa in te r tr a ce o f o rg an ic s th an a n y in str u m en t
se n t p re v io u sly t o M ars . T ogeth er, C urio sit y ’s a b ili t y t o s a m ple a w id e
ra n ge of ro ck s an d so ils as it m oves aro u nd th e cra te r an d th e
so p h is tic a tio n o f th e S A M d ete ctio n a b ili t ie s a re a m ajo r ste p in th e
fo llo w -t h e-c a rb on g am e p la n .
CheM in , th e C hem is tr y a n d M in era lo gy e x p erim en t, a ls o e x am in es
ro ck sa m ple s, bu t it is lo okin g fo r m in era ls ra th er th an org an ic s.
Min era ls a ll fo rm u nder p artic u la r e n vir o n m en ta l c o n dit io n s, a n d so
id en tif y in g a p h osp h ate o r c a rb on ate o r su lf a te te lls sc ie n tis ts a b ou t
th e ch em is tr y , te m pera tu re s, a tm osp h eric p re ssu re , a n d p re se n ce o f
wate r o n M ars a t th e tim e th e m in era l w as fo rm ed . T he
ex p erim en t
sh oots x -r a y b ea m s a t c ru sh ed r o ck s a m ple s a n d c a n t e ll i f a p artic u la r
min era l is p re se n t if it m ak es u p a t le a st 3 p erc e n t o f th e o rig in al
ro ck . L ik e S A M , C heM in re q u ir e s su bsta n tia l a m ou nts o f p ow er— up
to t e n h ou rs o f x -r a y b om bard m en t f o r o n e s a m ple a n aly sis .
The h unt fo r th e b u ild in g b lo ck s a n d c o n dit io n s n eed ed fo r li f e o n
Mars is a t t h e h ea rt o f C urio sit y ’s s c ie n ce m is sio n , b u t t h ere a re m an y
more path s fo r dis c o very . Oth er in str u m en ts will sn if f th e
atm osp h ere , drill in to ro ck s, m ag n if y ro ck ou tc ro p s, an d bou nce
partic le s o ff M ars — gettin g n ew ly s o p h is tic a te d in fo rm atio n a b ou t it s
wea th er, th e ra d ia tio n h it tin g th e su rfa ce , th e siz e o f g ra in s in th e
ro ck , an d th e pre v ale n ce of fr o ze n w ate r an d w ate r in m in era ls
underg ro u nd.
Oft e n lo st in th e dra m a an d sc ie n ce of th e m is sio n is an oth er
Curio sit y s u rp ris e : It is a r e m ark ab ly in te rn atio n al e ffo rt. A lt h ou gh it
is a NASA mis sio n , Can ad a, Russia , an d Sp ain were la rg ely
re sp on sib le f o r t h re e i n str u m en ts , w hile G erm an y a n d F ra n ce s u ppli e d
so p h is tic a te d ( a n d c o stly ) c o m pon en ts a n d d ir e ctio n . C urio sit y ’s la se r,
fo r in sta n ce , w as m ad e in F ra n ce . T he r a d ia tio n d ete ctio n s y ste m w as
desig n ed an d bu ilt in co lla b ora tio n w it h G erm an en gin eers an d

sc ie n tis ts . A h ig h ly so p h is tic a te d sp ectr o m ete r, w hic h w ill id en tif y
ele m en ts in ro ck s, w as m ad e in C an ad a. M LS m ay w ell b e th e m ost
in te rn atio n al M ars m is sio n e v er.
The la n din g is e x p ecte d to b e o n w hat is b eli e v ed to b e a n cie n t
Martia n r o ck — not c o vere d b y la v a o r w ea th ere d b y o th er c o n dit io n s
th at c a n c h an ge it — bu t th e re a l p riz e is M ou nt S h arp . N am ed a ft e r
fo rm er N ASA p la n eta ry sc ie n tis t R ob ert S h arp , it is k n ow n to h av e
lo ts o f m in era ls a t i t s b ase a n d m an y la y ers o f r o ck t o s tu dy. S cie n tis ts
wan t to u nders ta n d h ow to w erin g M ou nt S h arp ca m e to b e in th e
mid dle o f a cra te r. T he m ou nta in d oesn ’t se em to h av e a v o lc a n ic
his to ry , le a d in g so m e to th eo riz e it w as c a rv ed o u t o f th e c ra te r b y
pow erfu l, c ir c u la r w in ds.
How ev er it c a m e to b e, th e m ou nta in o ffe rs th e b est lo ok e v er a t
th e g eo lo gy o f M ars . G ale C ra te r is k n ow n to b e m ore th an th re e
billi o n y ea rs o ld , a n d s o M ou nt S h arp is e x p ecte d t o h av e a g eo lo gic a l
his to ry — pre se n t in t h e la y erin g a n d c o m posit io n o f d if fe re n t k in ds o f
ro ck — go in g b ack th at fa r. If a ll g o es w ell, th e ro ver w ill in te n se ly
ex am in e t h e m ou nta in b ase a n d t h en c o n tin u e t o c li m b u p it s s lo p in g
valle y s du rin g it s fu nctio n al li f e . Curio sit y w ill ex am in e ex p ose d
geo lo gic a l la y ers n ev er s e en b efo re a n d a n aly ze th eir c o n te n ts . It w ill
be q u it e li t e ra lly a fie ld d ay fo r g eo lo gis ts , t h ou gh a t a m an y-m illi o n -
mile r e m ove.
The m is sio n c a lls fo r C urio sit y to b e ro vin g, sa m pli n g, a n aly zin g,
an d s e n din g b ack im ag es f o r t w o y ea rs . W it h a p ow er s o u rc e t h at c a n
su pply ele ctr ic it y fa r lo n ger th an tw o y ea rs , th ou gh — as w ell as a
his to ry o f M ars ro vers la stin g y ea rs lo n ger th an th eir e x p ecte d li f e
sp an — th ere ’s a g o od c h an ce th at a h ea lt h y C urio sit y c o u ld m ak e it
fa r h ig h er, e v en t o t h e t o p o f M ou nt S h arp . T he li m it in g fa cto r w ou ld
be N ASA f u ndin g, w hic h i s i n i n cre a sin gly s h ort s u pply .
The jo u rn ey of C urio sit y w ill unqu estio n ab ly be an od ysse y of
su rp ris e s, d is c o verie s, a n d d if fic u lt ie s. T he li m it le ss p ro m is e is w hat
ex cit e s s c ie n tis ts li k e J o h n G ro tz in ger, J o y C ris p , a n d t h e h undre d s o f
oth ers w ho w ill g ath er a t J P L a n d t h en g ra d u ally t r ic k le b ack t o t h eir
hom es a n d la b s to w ork th eir C urio sit y d ata fr o m tie d -in c o m pu te rs
aro u nd t h e w orld . A nd t h ose d if fic u lt ie s a re a cce p te d a s in ev it a b le b y

th e e n gin eers . T he d is tin ctio n b eca m e a p pare n t in a c o n vers a tio n a t
JP L w it h J o h n W rig h t, o n e o f t h e t e a m t h at w ill “ d riv e” C urio sit y .
Wrig h t, w ho h elp ed r e m ote ly d riv e th e M ars r o ver S p ir it , s a id th at
dir e ctin g C urio sit y “ is a t le a st te n tim es m ore c o m pli c a te d .” T his is a
fu nctio n o f it s s iz e , it s s c ie n ce p ay lo ad , th e te rra in it w ill tr a v el, a n d
th e f a ct t h at i t c a n m ak e m ore t h an 4 ,0 00 u niq u e m an eu vers .
It s p ath a n d th e tim in g o f it s m oves w ill b e la rg ely w rit te n in c o d e
se n t to th e ro ver fr o m E arth a t th e b eg in nin g o f e a ch M ars
day , b u t
Curio sit y pre se n ts an oth er uniq u e ch alle n ge: T he ro ver ca n m ak e
man y m ore d ecis io n s o n it s o w n th an p ast m od els a n d s o re q u ir e s a
dif fe re n t an d fa r m ore in te n se kin d of overs ig h t. In th is se n se ,
Curio sit y i s m ore o f a s e lf -c o n tr o lli n g r o b ot t h an p ast r o vers , a lt h ou gh
th e M SL t e a m is c le a r in s a y in g it d oes n ot h av e a rtif ic ia l in te lli g en ce
per s e .
While Sp ir it an d Opportu nit y co u ld als o m ak e so m e li m it e d
decis io n s o n t h eir o w n a b ou t w hic h p ath t o t a k e t o a v o id a n o b sta cle ,
th at in fo rm atio n w as lo st to th e ro vers a s so on a s th ey m ad e th eir
moves. C urio sit y w ill b e m ore c a p ab le o f g u id in g it s e lf a n d w ill a ls o
keep t r a ck o f e v ery th in g it h as d on e a n d w here it h as g o n e. A s W rig h t
ex p la in ed it , th is new ca p ab ili t y fo r sto rin g Curio sit y ’s decis io n -
mak in g o n board r e q u ir e s h is t e a m n ot o n ly t o k n ow w here t h e r o b ot-
ro ver h as b een b u t als o to u nders ta n d w here “th e ro ver th in ks it
dro ve.”
“T he p eo p le w ho d esig n ed a n d b u ilt th e so ft w are tr ie d to m ak e it
ea sy to u se ,” h e s a id . “ T he w ay th ey d id th at w as to m ak e th e r o ver
sm arte r an d m ore aw are , to re m em ber m ore th in gs so it co u ld
re sp on d o n i t s o w n. W e w ou ld n ’t h av e t o s p ecif y e v ery th in g.
“B ut fo r u s, th at m ea n s w e h av e to k n ow e v ery th in g th at th e r o ver
kn ow s. I t ’s p ossib le t h at C urio sit y c o u ld t h in k it is in a d if fe re n t p la ce
th an w e k n ow it to b e, a n d th at c o u ld c a u se so m e p ro b le m s. S o w e
hav e t o k n ow , i n a s e n se , w hat i t ’s t h in kin g.
“T his is a b ra n d-n ew w orld fo r a ll o f u s. W e h av e to k n ow w hat it
kn ow s. A nd w hen i t g ets r e a lly , r e a lly s m art, w e n eed t o k n ow w hat i t
will d o.”
This is w here th e R 2-D 2, C -3 P O , an d W ALL-E qu ali t ie s of th e

Curio sit y p ers o n a b eg in co m in g in to fo cu s. N ob od y a t J P L h as a n y
illu sio n s th at Curio sit y is an yth in g bu t a ro vin g ro b ot, bu t it ’s
non eth ele ss n ot u nu su al to h ea r sc ie n tis ts a n d e n gin eers ta lk a b ou t
what “ h e” w ill d o i n p artic u la r c ir c u m sta n ce s.
There ’s a ce rta in prid e (a lo n g w it h w arin ess) ab ou t C urio sit y ’s
in cre a se d k n ow le d ge, a n d th ere ’s a n u nsp oken b u t u nden ia b le se n se
of th e ro ver a s b ra v e a n d h ero ic . T his is re a lly n ot u nex p ecte d : T he
pre v io u s, su rp ris in gly lo n g-li v ed M ars ro vers S p ir it a n d O pportu nit y
beca m e fa m ou s w orld w id e a s th e “li t tle ro vers th at co u ld ”— plu ck y
fe llo w s t h at f a r e x ce ed ed h um an e x p ecta tio n s.
As C urio sit y m ak es it s M artia n tr e k — an d e sp ecia lly w hen it sta rts
cli m bin g M ou nt S h arp — it w ou ld b e su rp ris in g if a sim ila r k in d o f
em otio n al a tta ch m en t d id n ’t d ev elo p w it h th e N ASA te a m a n d th e
pu bli c a t la rg e. T he r o ver is a m ach in e, b u t t h at d oesn ’t m ea n it c a n ’t
hav e p ers o n ali t y , t o o.

Artis t’s r e n derin g o f C urio sit y u sin g it s la se r t o s tu dy r o ck s o n t h e s u rfa ce o f M ars. T he C urio sit y
m is sio n c a lls f o r t h e r o ver t o e x plo re M ars w it h t e n in str u m en ts e it h er e n tir e ly n ew t o M ars s c ie n ce
or g re a tly im pro ved
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )

NASA h as f o r d ec a d es s o u gh t t o “ fo llo w t h e w ate r” o n M ars in a n e ffo rt t o d ete rm in e w heth er t h e
pla n et w as m uch w ette r in it s d is ta n t p a st a n d w hen . S cie n tis ts a re n ow c o n vin ced t h at la rg e
am ou n ts o f w ate r o n ce f lo w ed , a s s e en in t h is c o lo r-c o d ed im age o f M ars t a ken b y t h e o rb it in g M ars
Glo ba l S u rv ey o r
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )

Is w ate r s till f lo w in g o n M ars’s s u rfa ce? W hat m ay b e s tr e a m s o f b rin y w ate r w ere d ete c te d in 2 011
at s e v era l s m all c ra te rs o n N ew to n C ra te r d u rin g t h e M artia n s u m mer, w hen s u bsu rfa ce ic e c o u ld
melt
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch /U niv . o f A riz o n a)

The g o ld -p la te d S am ple A naly sis a t M ars s e t o f in str u m en ts c a n h ea t c ru sh ed M artia n r o ck a n d s o il
to 1 800°F a s p a rt o f it s s e a rc h f o r o rg a n ic c o m po u n ds, t h e b u ild in g b lo ck s o f li f e
.
( N ASA )

The s u it e o f c a m era s o n C urio sit y w as d esig n ed a n d b u ilt b y M ali n S pa ce S cie n ce S yste m s, w hic h
has p ro vid ed c a m era s f o r m ost o f t h e n atio n ’s M ars m is sio n s. C urio sit y ’s m ast c a m era s c a n t a ke
hig h -d efin it io n im ages a s w ell a s v id eo s
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch /L A N L)

The p a th o f t h e r o ver w ill b e d ete rm in ed a t J P L’s M is sio n C on tr o l, w here “ d riv ers” p u t t o geth er t h e
co m pu te r c o d e t h at g u id es C urio sit y . H ere , d riv ers w ork s u ccessfu lly t o g et t h e r o ver S pir it o u t o f a
sa n d t r a p t h at t h re a te n ed t o e n d it s m is sio n
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch )
The C urio sit y m is sio n is s c h ed u le d t o la st f o r o n e M ars y ea r, o r t w o E arth y ea rs. E ngin eers a n d
sc ie n tis ts b eli e v e it c a n o pera te f a r lo n ger a n d e v en c li m b w ell u p M ou n t S h arp , if f u n ds a re f o u n d
to k eep it g o in g
.
( N ASA /JP L-C alt e ch /E SA /D LR /F U B erli n /M SSS)

The C urio sit y m is sio n is p a rt o f a lo n g-r a n ge p la n b y N ASA t o e v en tu ally b rin g a r o ck s a m ple b a ck
fr o m M ars a n d u lt im ate ly t o s e n d h u m an s t o M ars. S om e p riv a te s p a ce e n tr e p re n eu rs a re a ls o
dev elo pin g r o ck ets a n d c a psu le s t h ey h ope w ill t a ke h u m an s t o t h e p la n et
.
( N ASA )

T C HAPTER
F
OUR
Can C urio sit y S av e t h e M ars P ro gra m ?
he C urio sit y m is sio n is e x ce p tio n al in s o m an y w ay s— it s s iz e a n d
it s p ay lo ad , th e n ew te ch nolo gie s it u se s, it s n eed to la n d in a
t ig h tly d efin ed s it e w it h li t tle r o om fo r e rro r, t h e r e tu rn t o a n o vertly
a str o b io lo gic a l m is sio n , a n d th e s h eer c o m ple x it y o f th e u nderta k in g.
I t is n ot u nu su al to h ea r sc ie n tis ts a n d e n gin eers in sid e a n d o u ts id e
t h e p ro gra m sa y it is th e m ost so p h is tic a te d in te rp la n eta ry m is sio n
e v er underta k en , an d it m ay w ell be th e m ost im porta n t N ASA
e n dea v o r s in ce t h e A pollo l a n din gs o n t h e m oon .
That s ig n if ic a n ce c o m es fr o m it s g o als a n d te ch nolo gie s, o f c o u rs e ,
b u t a ls o fr o m th e tim in g o f it s la n din g. T hat d ate , s e t lo n g a g o b ase d
o n th e p osit io n o f M ars re la tiv e to E arth , tu rn s o u t to b e a m om en t
t h at w ill be eit h er re m ark ab ly pro p it io u s or a dis a ste r of m ajo r
p ro p ortio n s. T he re a so n : N ASA ’s M ars p ro gra m — desp it e a d eca d e o f
u npre ce d en te d su cce ss— is non eth ele ss on th e bu dgeta ry ch op pin g
b lo ck in W ash in gto n . T he m ost re ce n t pro p osa l co m in g fr o m th e
W hit e H ou se , r e fle ctin g t h e b u dget r e a li t ie s in C on gre ss, is e sse n tia lly
t o p u t am bit io u s M ars ex p lo ra tio n o n h old . T hat la ck o f fin an cia l
s u pport w ill n ot a ffe ct th e C urio sit y m is sio n , b u t it w ou ld h av e d ir e
c o n se q u en ce s f o r f u tu re M ars e x p lo ra tio n i f i t b eca m e p oli c y a n d l a w .
And t h at is w hy t h e m is sio n is c o n sid ere d s o e n orm ou sly im porta n t
t o all w ho w an t to se e in te rp la n eta ry ex p lo ra tio n co n tin u e. A
s u cce ssfu l la n din g w it h ex cit in g dis c o verie s to fo llo w co u ld pu t
N ASA ’s M ars p ro gra m b ack o n tr a ck w it h g o vern m en t fu nders a n d
l e a d to a lo n g so u gh t (a n d v ery c o stly ) M ars sa m ple -r e tu rn m is sio n .
B ut th e lo ss of a $2.5 billi o n in vestm en t co u ld hav e th e eq u ally
d ra m atic effe ct of clo sin g th e door on am bit io u s M ars an d oth er

pla n eta ry m is sio n s f o r d eca d es t o c o m e.
“M SL co u ld b e th e m ost im porta n t N ASA m is sio n sin ce A pollo ,”
sa y s Chris Carb erry , ex ecu tiv e dir e cto r of Exp lo re M ars , In c., a
non pro fit t h at a d vo ca te s f o r a n a m bit io u s M ars p ro gra m . “ S in ce w e’r e
in s u ch a c o m pli c a te d b u dgeta ry s it u atio n , a n d N ASA is n av ig atin g a
very u nu su al t r a n sit io n , s u cce ss o r f a ilu re o f t h is m is sio n c o u ld h av e a
dra m atic e ffe ct o n th e fu tu re o f th e s p ace p ro gra m — a p osit iv e e ffe ct
on s p ace e x p lo ra tio n if it s u cce ed s, a n d a n eg ativ e e ffe ct in C on gre ss
an d am on g th e pu bli c if it doesn ’t . I re a lly ca n ’t overs ta te it s
im porta n ce t o p eo p le w ho c a re a b ou t e x p lo rin g a n d s o m ed ay la n din g
on M ars .”
Fir o u z N ad eri, n ow th e d ir e cto r o f s o la r s y ste m e x p lo ra tio n a t J P L
an d on e of th e key arc h it e cts of th e para d e of su cce ssfu l N ASA
mis sio n s t o M ars o ver t h e p ast d eca d e, a ls o s e es t h e C urio sit y m is sio n
as a tu rn in g p oin t. W it h p ast e x p erie n ce a s a g u id e, N ad eri s a y s th at
su cce ss co u ld cre a te a g ro u ndsw ell o f su pport fo r co n tin u ed m ajo r
mis sio n s to M ars a n d o th er p la n ets . If it ’s a fa ilu re — well, h e ca n ’t
ev en e n te rta in t h at t h ou gh t.
“W e kn ow th at th e A m eric a n p u bli c an d la rg e se g m en ts of th e
glo b al p u bli c fo llo w th e M ars r o vers c a re fu lly o n ce th ey la n d; th ey ’r e
a m uch n otic e d tr iu m ph ,” N ad eri o b se rv es. “A nd th is o n e, w it h it s
Ja m es B on dis h la n din g an d ab so lu te ly unpre ce d en te d ca p ab ili t ie s,
sh ou ld g et e v en m ore a tte n tio n .”
Nad eri is in a u niq u e p osit io n to a sse ss th e m is sio n ’s im porta n ce in
te rm s o f W ash in gto n d ecis io n -m ak in g a n d p oli t ic s. In 2 000, a ft e r tw o
co stly a n d h um bli n g N ASA M ars fa ilu re s, N ad eri w as b ro u gh t in b y
th e a g en cy ’s fir s t M ars p ro gra m d ir e cto r, S co tt H ubbard , to h elp le a d
th e te a m th at p u t to geth er th e str a te g y th at
le d to fiv e m ajo r M ars
su cce sse s in th e p ast d eca d e. N ow , w it h th e M ars p ro gra m u nder
th re a t, he w as re ce n tly ask ed to jo in a sim ila r te a m to im ag in e
an oth er r u n o f M ars m is sio n s a n d s u cce sse s.
“It ’s re a lly a n u psid e-d ow n sit u atio n ,” h e sa y s. “ In 2 000, w e w ere
bro u gh t to geth er aft e r tw o em barra ssin g fa ilu re s th at str o n gly
su ggeste d a b ro ken p ro gra m . B ut w hen w e c a m e u p w it h o u r t e n -y ea r
pla n , w e g o t s u pport a cro ss t h e g o vern m en t.

“N ow , fo llo w in g a re m ark ab le ru n of su cce sse s, th e cli m ate fo r
Mars ex p lo ra tio n a n d fu ndin g is w ors e th an in 2 000. T he b an kin g
cris is , t h e d eb t p ro b le m s, a s h rin kin g g o vern m en t, a n d t h e t r o u ble s o f
ou r E uro p ea n p artn ers — it ’s a p erfe ct s to rm f o r t h e M ars p ro gra m . W e
deli v ere d a g o ld en e g g w it h A m eric a n su cce ss o n M ars , b u t w e m ay
now b e t h ro w in g i t a sid e.”
Quit e a n a d ded h ea v y l o ad f o r C urio sit y t o b e c a rry in g.
In ev it a b ly , a t tim es li k e th is , th e q u estio n th at c o m es u p r e g ard in g
co stly M ars m is sio n s an d o th er N ASA ven tu re s is ex is te n tia l: W hy
both er? W hy n ot s p en d t a x d olla rs o n s o lv in g m ore p ra ctic a l c o n ce rn s
here o n E arth ?
There w as a tim e w hen th e a n sw er w as o b vio u s to A m eric a n s: T he
So vie t U nio n w as a ctiv ely tr y in g to e x p lo re a n d la n d o n M ars , a n d
th ey w ere m ak in g sig n if ic a n t p ro gre ss. L ate r e v en ts w ou ld o verta k e
an d d im in is h th e a ch ie v em en t, b u t th e S o vie ts w ere a ctu ally th e fir s t
to h av e a s u cce ssfu l s o ft la n din g o n M ars — in 1 971, w it h th e c a p su le
Mars 3 . It w as th e h ig h p oin t o f th e S o vie t M ars p ro gra m , b u t a ls o a
sig n o f w hat w as t o c o m e: M ars 3 c o m munic a te d f r o m t h e R ed P la n et
fo r a m ere 1 4.5 se co n ds befo re lo sin g co n ta ct, p erh ap s in a d u st
sto rm . A ft e r se v era l M ars fly b ys ea rly on , th e So vie ts h ad se n t a
nu m ber o f u nsu cce ssfu l o rb it e r a n d la n der m is sio n s to M ars b efo re
th e 1971 dis a p poin tm en t, an d th eir tr a ck re co rd (in clu din g th e
su bse q u en t R ussia n e ffo rts ) h as b een e q u ally t r o u ble d e v er s in ce .
Oth ers h av e h ad th eir a ch ie v em en ts a n d d is a p poin tm en ts , to o.
The
Euro p ea n S p ace A gen cy (E SA ), fo r in sta n ce , lo st th e B rit is h la n der
Bea g le i n 2 003 b u t h ad s u cce ss w it h a M ars o rb it e r o f i t s o w n.
Mea n w hile , N ASA h as la n ded six veh ic le s on M ars , h as p u t six
sa te lli t e s in to M ars o rb it , a n d h as b eco m e th e a ck n ow le d ged m aste r
of M ars e x p lo ra tio n . N ASA h as a ls o h ad it s fa ilu re s, n ota b ly th e M ars
Obse rv er in 1 993, th e M ars C li m ate O rb it e r in 1 998, a n d th e M ars
Pola r L an der in 1 999. B ut a s w it h th e m oon , th e U nit e d S ta te s h as
dom in ate d h um an kin d’s ex p lo ra tio n o f M ars . T alk a b ou t p ro je ctin g
posit iv e “ so ft p ow er” i n t h e w orld .
Scie n tif ic e x cit e m en t a b ou t th e p la n et is e sp ecia lly h ig h n ow th at
pre v io u s m is sio n s h av e d is c o vere d t h at M ars w as n ot a lw ay s c o ld a n d

dry — as it is n ow — bu t w as o n ce w et a n d w arm . C an yo n s a n d d elt a s
cre a te d b y r u nnin g w ate r h av e b een id en tif ie d , a n d m in era ls th at a re
fo rm ed on ly in th e pre se n ce of w ate r are now kn ow n to be
wid esp re a d . T he re ce n t dis c o very on M ars of perio d ic re le a se s of
meth an e— a gas gen era lly , bu t not ex clu siv ely , pro d u ce d th ro u gh
bio lo gy o n E arth — has a d ded to th e th in kin g th at th e p la n et ju st m ay
hav e b een h ab it a b le a t o n e t im e a n d p erh ap s i s h om e t o m ic ro b ia l li f e
ev en t o d ay .
This re p re se n ts en orm ou s pro gre ss fr o m th e day s of th e V ik in g
la n ders , w hen h op es w ere a ls o h ig h th at s ig n s o f p ast o r p re se n t li f e
mig h t b e fo u nd. In ste a d , V ik in g c a m era s s h ow ed a s e em in gly e n dle ss
dese rt, a n d N ASA c o n clu ded th at V ik in g’s li f e -d ete ctio n e x p erim en ts
had co m e u p e m pty -h an ded — alt h ou gh o n e se t o f b io lo gy te sts d id
pro d u ce r e su lt s t h at r e m ain t h e f o cu s o f s o m e d eb ate a n d c o n tr o vers y .
The V ik in g c o n clu sio n s la rg ely k ille d in te re st in th e p la n et fo r m ore
th an a d eca d e, u ntil i t w as r e k in dle d i n t h e 1 990s.
So , a s th e M SL m is sio n p la y s o u t, it d oes so d u rin g a c o m pli c a te d
tim e: W e a re in so m eth in g o f a g o ld en e ra fo r M ars a n d p la n eta ry
dis c o very in g en era l, b u t fu ndin g fo r fo llo w -o n m is sio n s is d ry in g u p
fa st. A m eric a n p artic ip atio n in w hat w ere to b e tw o jo in t
NASA -E SA
Mars m is sio n s in 2 016 a n d 2 018 w as c a n ce le d e a rly in 2 012 a ft e r t h e
Whit e H ou se O ffic e o f M an ag em en t a n d B udget m ad e s u bsta n tia l c u ts
in t h e N ASA s c ie n ce b u dget, e sp ecia lly t h e p la n eta ry b u dget.
Even b efo re th ose c u ts , N ASA ’s b u dget a cco u nte d fo r le ss th an h alf
a p en ny o f th e fe d era l ta x d olla r. In c o m paris o n , a t th e h eig h t o f th e
Apollo p ro gra m a n d V ik in g’s b eg in nin gs, th e N ASA b u dget to ok u p
more th an fo u r c e n ts o f th e fe d era l ta x d olla r. N o w on der P re sid en ts
re g u la rly ca ll la n din g astr o n au ts on M ars on e of N ASA ’s hig h est
prio rit ie s, yet th e d ay w hen th at m ig h t h ap pen fa d es fu rth er an d
fu rth er o u t.
In a d ev elo p m en t th at so m e c o n sid er p ro m is in g a n d o th ers w ou ld
ca ll d ay d re a m in g, p riv ate sp ace en tr e p re n eu rs h av e sa id th ey w ill
se n d th eir ow n sp ace cra ft to M ars — pre fe ra b ly alo n gsid e a N ASA
pro gra m , th ey sa y , b u t o n th eir o w n if n ece ssa ry . T he m ost h ig h -
pro file o f t h e g ro u p is E lo n M usk , t h e fo u nder a n d p re sid en t o f S p ace

Exp lo ra tio n T ech nolo gie s, o r S p ace X . M usk , w ho m ad e h is fo rtu ne
wit h t h e c o m pan y P ay P al, s a y s h e in it ia lly g o t in to t h e s p ace b u sin ess
to b u ild a f le et o f r o ck ets a n d s p ace cra ft t o t a k e h um an s t o M ars .
Ten yea rs aft e r fo u ndin g Sp ace X , h e alr e a d y h as an u nden ia b le
tr a ck re co rd o f su cce ss. In M ay 2 012, a s C urio sit y w as sp eed in g to
Mars , M usk ’s D ra g o n sp ace cra ft b eca m e th e fir s t p riv ate ly b u ilt a n d
man ag ed c a p su le to d ock w it h th e In te rn atio n al S p ace S ta tio n ( u nder
NASA ’s w atc h fu l e y e). M usk ’s g o al o f s e n din g h um an s to M ars in th e
2020s is s c o ffe d a t b y m an y, b u t s o w ere h is p la n s to s e n d a p riv ate
ca p su le t o t h e s p ace s ta tio n .
Will t h e jo u rn ey s o f C urio sit y b e t h e e n d o f t h e N ASA e ra o n M ars ?
Will th e lo n g-h eld N ASA d re a m o f b rin gin g a r o ck s a m ple b ack fr o m
Mars to s tu dy a n d s o m ed ay s e n din g a h um an to th e p la n et b e p u t o n
in defin it e hold ? Will oth er natio n s an d priv ate co m pan ie s
in cre a sin gly t a k e t h e l e a d ?
The f a te o f C urio sit y o n M ars w ill d efin it e ly h elp s h ap e t h e a n sw er.
The W hit e H ou se h as le ft t h e d oor o p en t o f u tu re M ars m is sio n s, e v en
big on es, if th ey ca n fit in to th e n ew ly sh ru nken ag en cy bu dget.
Dra m atic d is c o verie s b y C urio sit y w ou ld u ndou bte d ly k ic k th e d oor
op en w id er.
I a sk ed N ad eri h ow h e r e sp on ds to th at li n gerin g q u estio n o f “ W hy
do w e g o to M ars ? ” a n d it w as p re tty c le a r th at h e’s b een a sk ed th at
qu it e a b it . H e b ru sh ed a sid e a ll th e m ore p ra ctic a l re a so n s— th at it
en co u ra g es s tu den ts t o g o i n to t h e s c ie n ce s, t h at i t s p u rs t e ch nolo gic a l
in novatio n o f a ll s o rts , th at s p ace e x p lo ra tio n c a n a n d h as le d to th e
dev elo p m en t o f v alu ab le c o n su m er p ro d u cts li k e G PS— an d to ld th is
sto ry :
An im mig ra n t fr o m Ir a n , N ad eri w as in vit e d in 2 006 to E lli s Is la n d
in N ew Y ork harb or aft e r w in nin g an aw ard fo r his ou ts ta n din g
ach ie v em en ts a s a n A m eric a n b orn o u ts id e th e co u ntr y . A ddre ssin g
th e asse m ble d cro w d, h e sp oke o f A m eric a as th e “E lli s Is la n d o f
sp ace ,” th e esse n tia l gate w ay fo r hum an kin d’s ex p lo ra tio n of th e
co sm os a n d i t s e v en tu al m an ned t r a v el t o o th er p la n ets a n d b ey o n d.
But h e a ls o a sk ed p eo p le to th in k b ack m uch fu rth er th an th e E lli s
Is la n d d ay s, to th e tim e o f C hris to p h er C olu m bu s a n d h is a rriv al in

th e “ N ew W orld .” “ W ho k n ew th en w hat A m eric a w ou ld tu rn o u t to
be to d ay ?” he re m ark ed . “N ob od y, beca u se Am eric a was
unim ag in ab le .”
Nad eri co n tin u ed : “It ’s sim ila r w it h th in kin g a b ou t o th er p la n ets
an d s p ace . W e c a n ’t t h in k in t e rm s o f t h e n ex t b u dget o r e le ctio n ; w e
hav e to th in k in te rm s o f c e n tu rie s. T here is to d ay a b so lu te ly n o w ay
to im ag in e w hat w e c o u ld fin d in sp ace fo u r o r fiv e c e n tu rie s fr o m
now .
“T here ’s no cle a r path fo rw ard , bu t th ere is a cle a r an d very
undesir a b le r e su lt a w ait in g u s i f w e d on ’t p u sh a h ea d ,” h e s a id . “ If w e
stif le th e c u rio sit y th at h um an s h av e, e sp ecia lly th e c u rio sit y a b ou t
sp ace , t h ey a n d s o cie ty w ill s ta g n ate .”
The new est an d m ost ca p ab le M ars ro ver ev er is part of th at
uncle a r b u t v alu ab le p ath fo rw ard . A nd it c a rrie s th e n am e C urio sit y
wit h v ery h ig h h op es a n d f o r g o od r e a so n .

F o r m ore ex cit in g co vera g e, w atc h “M artia n M eg a R over” on th e
N atio n al G eo gra p h ic C han nel o r vis it
natg eo tv .c o m
to w it n ess th e
d ra m atic s to ry b eh in d N ASA ’s C urio sit y r o ver.

A CK N O W LE D GM EN TS
N atio n al G eo gra p h ic w ou ld li k e to a ck n ow le d ge th e fo llo w in g sta ff
w ho cre a te d th is b ook: acq u is it io n s ed it o r Su sa n H it c h co ck , se rie s
e d it o r S u sa n S tr a ig h t, p h oto e d it o r R ob W ay m ou th , p ro d u ctio n e d it o r
J u dit h K le in , a n d p ro d u ctio n d esig n er K atie O ls e n .

A PPEN DIX
The T en S cie n ce I n str u m en ts o n C urio sit y
( s o u rc e : N ASA )
S a m ple A naly sis a t M ars ( S A M )
T he S am ple A naly sis a t M ars w ill u se th re e m in ia tu riz e d in str u m en ts
i n sid e C urio sit y t o s tu dy c h em is tr y r e le v an t t o li f e . A c e n tr a l o b je ctiv e
i s to ch eck fo r th e ca rb on -b ase d co m pou nds th at on Earth are
m ole cu la r b u ild in g b lo ck s o f li f e . It w ill a ls o e x am in e th e c h em ic a l
s ta te o f o th er e le m en ts im porta n t f o r li f e a n d a sse ss r a tio s o f d if fe re n t
a to m ic w eig h ts o f c e rta in e le m en ts fo r c lu es a b ou t p la n eta ry c h an ge
a n d o n go in g p ro ce sse s.
SA M w ill acco m pli s h th ese ta sk s by ex am in in g gase s fr o m th e
M artia n a tm osp h ere a n d g ase s t h at o ven s a n d s o lv en ts a re a b le t o f r e e
f r o m p ow dere d ro ck an d so il sa m ple s. C urio sit y ’s ro b otic arm w ill
d eli v er th e p ow dere d sa m ple s to on e of tw o in le t fu nnels on th e
r o ver’s d eck . A tm osp h eric s a m ple s e n te r t h ro u gh filt e re d p orts o n t h e
s id e o f t h e r o ver.
SA M ’s to ols fit in to a m ic ro w av e-o ven -s iz e b ox in sid e th e fr o n t e n d
o f th e ro ver. W hile it is th e big gest of th e te n in str u m en ts on
C urio sit y , th is tig h tly p ack ed b ox h old s in str u m en ts th at w ou ld ta k e
u p a g o od p ortio n o f a la b ora to ry ro om o n E arth . It s tw o o ven s c a n
h ea t ro ck sa m ple s u p to 1 800°F a n d c a n d o it o n o n ly
40 w atts o f
p ow er.
The a n aly sis o f m ate ria l fr o m M artia n ro ck s o r so ils b eg in s a ft e r
p ow der c o lle cte d a n d p ro ce sse d b y to ols o n th e a rm is d ro p ped in to
o n e o f S A M ’s tw o e n tr y p oin ts . T he in le t tu bes a re h ig h ly p oli s h ed

fu nnels th at v ib ra te to g et th e p ow der to fa ll in to a re u sa b le sa m ple
cu p.
One to ol th at re ce iv es th e p ow dere d M artia n m ate ria l is a m ass
sp ectr o m ete r, li k e th ose se en in m an y te le v is io n crim e-s o lv in g
la b ora to rie s. I t id en tif ie s g ase s b y t h e m ole cu la r w eig h t a n d e le ctr ic a l
ch arg e o f th eir io n iz e d sta te s, a n d it w ill c h eck fo r se v era l e le m en ts
im porta n t fo r li f e as w e kn ow it , in clu din g n it r o gen , ph osp h oru s,
su lf u r, o xy gen , h yd ro gen , a n d c a rb on .
Anoth er in str u m en t, a tu nab le la se r sp ectr o m ete r, u se s a b so rp tio n
of li g h t at sp ecif ic wav ele n gth s to m ea su re co n ce n tr a tio n s of
meth an e, c a rb on d io xid e, a n d w ate r v ap or.
The th ir d a n aly tic a l to ol is a g as c h ro m ato gra p h , w hic h se p ara te s
dif fe re n t gase s fr o m a m ix tu re to en ab le id en tif ic a tio n . It dete cts
org an ic c o m pou nds e x it in g a c a p illa ry c o lu m n, a n d th en it fe ed s th e
se p ara te d gase s to th e m ass sp ectr o m ete r fo r a m ore defin it iv e
id en tif ic a tio n .
Wit h th ese in str u m en ts , S A M c a n d ete ct a fa in te r tr a ce o f o rg an ic s
an d id en tif y a w id er v arie ty o f th em th an a n y in str u m en t y et s e n t to
Mars . It a ls o c a n p ro vid e in fo rm atio n a b ou t o th er b u ild in g b lo ck s o f
li f e a n d c lu es t o p ast e n vir o n m en ts .
NASA ’s G od dard S p ace F li g h t C en te r b u ilt a n d t e ste d S A M . F ra n ce ’s
sp ace ag en cy , th e Cen tr e Natio n al d’É tu des Sp atia le s, pro vid ed
su pport to Fre n ch re se a rc h ers who dev elo p ed SA M ’s gas
ch ro m ato gra p h . N ASA ’s J e t P ro p u ls io n L ab ora to ry ( J P L) in P asa d en a,
Cali f o rn ia , p ro vid ed t h e l a se r s p ectr o m ete r.
Chem is tr y a n d M in era lo gy E xp erim en t ( C heM in )
Lik e SA M , th e C hem is tr y an d M in era lo gy E xp erim en t w ill an aly ze
pow dere d r o ck a n d s o il s a m ple s d eli v ere d b y C urio sit y ’s r o b otic a rm .
It w ill id en tif y a n d q u an tif y th e m in era ls in th e sa m ple s— a h ig h ly
sig n if ic a n t ta sk b eca u se m in era ls p ro vid e a d u ra b le re co rd o f p ast
en vir o n m en ta l co n dit io n s, in clu din g in fo rm atio n ab ou t possib le
in gre d ie n ts a n d e n erg y s o u rc e s f o r l i f e .
CheM in u se s x -r a y d if fr a ctio n , a f ir s t f o r a m is sio n t o M ars . T his i s a

more d efin it iv e m eth od fo r id en tif y in g m in era ls th an w as p ossib le
wit h an y in str u m en t on pre v io u s mis sio n s. The in vestig atio n
su pple m en ts th e dif fr a ctio n m ea su re m en ts w it h x-r a y flu ore sc e n ce
ca p ab ili t y t o d ete rm in e f u rth er d eta ils b y id en tif y in g r a tio s o f s p ecif ic
ele m en ts p re se n t.
X-r a y d if fr a ctio n w ork s b y d ir e ctin g a n x -r a y b ea m a t a s a m ple a n d
re co rd in g h ow x -r a y s a re s c a tte re d b y th e s a m ple a t th e a to m ic le v el.
All m in era ls a re cry sta lli n e, a n d in cry sta lli n e m ate ria ls , a to m s a re
arra n ged in a n o rd erly , p erio d ic str u ctu re , c a u sin g th e x -r a y s to b e
sc a tte re d a t p re d ic ta b le a n gle s. F ro m th ose a n gle s, re se a rc h ers ca n
ded u ce th e sp acin g betw een pla n es of ato m s in th e cry sta l. E ach
dif fe re n t m in era l y ie ld s a k n ow n, c h ara cte ris tic s e rie s o f s p acin gs a n d
in te n sit ie s— it s o w n f in gerp rin t.
On C urio sit y ’s d eck , n ea r th e fr o n t o f th e r o ver, o n e fu nnel w it h a
re m ovab le co ver le a d s th ro u gh th e deck to p to th e CheM in
in str u m en t in sid e t h e r o ver. T he in str u m en t is a c u be a b ou t 1 0 in ch es
on ea ch sid e, w eig h in g ab ou t 2 2 p ou nds. T he ro ver acq u ir e s ro ck
sa m ple s w it h a p erc u ssiv e d rill a n d s o il s a m ple s w it h a s c o op .
A sa m ple p ro ce ssin g to ol o n th e ro b otic a rm p u ts th e p ow dere d
ro ck o r so il th ro u gh a sie v e d esig n ed to re m ove a n y p artic le s la rg er
th an 0 .0 06 in ch b efo re d eli v erin g th e m ate ria l in to th e C heM in in le t
fu nnel. V ib ra tio n help s m ove th e sa m ple m ate ria l— now a grit ty
pow der— dow n th e fu nnel. E ach sa m ple an aly sis w ill u se ab ou t as
much m ate ria l a s i n a b ab y a sp ir in .
Dav id Bla k e, an ex p ert in co sm och em is tr y an d ex o b io lo gy at
NASA ’s Am es Rese a rc h Cen te r, M offe tt Fie ld , Cali f o rn ia , is th e
prin cip al in vestig ato r fo r C heM in . H e a n d P hili p pe S ara zin o f in X it u ,
In c., in C am pbell, C ali f o rn ia , a c o -in vestig ato r o n th e C heM in te a m ,
dev elo p ed th e te ch nolo gy while Sara zin was work in g as a
postd octo ra l f e llo w a t A m es.
Mast C am era ( M astc a m )
The h ig h -d efin it io n , c o lo r c a m era s o n C urio sit y ’s m ast a re t h e le ft a n d
rig h t e y es o f th e M ast C am era a n d a re s it u ate d a b ou t 6 .5 fe et o ff th e

gro u nd. The rig h t-e y e M astc a m lo oks th ro u gh a te le p h oto le n s,
ca p tu rin g d eta ils w it h a b ou t th re e tim es b ette r re so lu tio n th an a n y
pre v io u s la n dsc a p e-v ie w in g c a m era o n th e su rfa ce o f M ars . T he le ft -
ey e M astc a m is a m ed iu m -a n gle le n s a n d p ro vid es b ro ad er c o n te x t.
Both c a n t a k e a n d s to re t h ou sa n ds o f f u ll- c o lo r i m ag es f r o m s ix f e et t o
in fin it y a n d c a n r e co rd h ig h -d efin it io n v id eo . C om bin in g in fo rm atio n
fr o m th e tw o ey es pro d u ce s th re e-d im en sio n al vie w s w here th e
im ag es o verla p .
Mali n S p ace S cie n ce S y ste m s ( M SSS) o f S an D ie g o , C ali f o rn ia , b u ilt
th e M astc a m .
Alp h a P artic le X -R ay S p ectr o m ete r ( A PX S)
The A lp h a Partic le X-R ay Sp ectr o m ete r is lo ca te d on Curio sit y ’s
ro b otic a rm a n d, li k e i t s p re d ece sso rs o n a ll p re v io u s M ars r o vers , w ill
id en tif y c h em ic a l e le m en ts in r o ck s a n d s o ils . T he A PX S o n C urio sit y ,
how ev er, has gre a te r se n sit iv it y , is m ore vers a tile in te rm s of
sc h ed u li n g, a n d c a n o p era te f r o m m ore p osit io n s.
Past A PX S ro ver in str u m en ts fo u nd s a lt y c o m posit io n s in b ed ro ck s
th at str o n gly su ggeste d a w et p ast, as w ell as th e sig n atu re o f an
an cie n t h ot s p rin g o r s te a m v en t in s o il. T he A PX S c a n d ete rm in e th e
ab u ndan ce o f e le m en ts t h at f o rm r o ck s a n d s o il a n d i s h ig h ly s e n sit iv e
to s a lt -f o rm in g e le m en ts s u ch a s s u lf u r, c h lo rin e, a n d b ro m in e, w hic h
ca n in dic a te t h at w ate r w as p re se n t in t h e p ast. I n a q u ic k t e n -m in u te
sc a n , it c a n fin d e v en m in or in gre d ie n ts to
co n ce n tr a tio n s o f a b ou t
0.5 perc e n t. In th re e-h ou r re a d in gs, it ca n dete ct te llt a le tr a ce
ele m en ts d ow n t o c o n ce n tr a tio n s o f f e w er t h an 1 00 p arts p er m illi o n .
The APX S w as m ad e in Can ad a an d w as co n tr ib u te d by th e
Can ad ia n S p ace A gen cy .
Rover E n vir o n m en ta l M on it o rin g S ta tio n ( R EM S)
The se t o f in str u m en ts , p ro vid ed b y S p ain , w ill re co rd in fo rm atio n
ab ou t d aily a n d s e a so n al c h an ges in M artia n w ea th er. T he m on it o rin g
will a sse ss w in d s p eed , w in d d ir e ctio n , a ir p re ssu re , r e la tiv e h um id it y ,
air te m pera tu re , g ro u nd te m pera tu re , a n d u lt r a v io le t ra d ia tio n . T he

mea su re m en ts w ill b e t a k en f o r a t le a st f iv e m in u te s e v ery h ou r o f t h e
98-w eek mis sio n . In fo rm atio n ab ou t win d, te m pera tu re s, an d
hum id it y c o m es f r o m e le ctr o n ic s e n so rs o n b oom s t h at r e a ch o u t f r o m
th e m ain m ast th at hold s th e C hem Cam la se r an d th e M astc a m .
Tem pera tu re s n ea r th e su rfa ce a t G ale C ra te r a re e x p ecte d to ra n ge
fr o m – 1 20°F t o 3 2°F .
Sp ain ’s M in is tr y o f S cie n ce a n d In novatio n ( M in is te rio d e C ie n cia e
In novació n ) an d it s C en te r fo r In du str ia l T ech nolo gy D ev elo p m en t
(C en tr o para el Desa rro llo Tecn oló gic o In du str ia l) desig n ed an d
co n str u cte d R EM S. T he Fin nis h M ete o ro lo gic a l In stit u te dev elo p ed
th e p re ssu re s e n so r.
Chem is tr y a n d C am era ( C hem Cam )
Usin g a r o ck -z a p pin g la se r o n C urio sit y ’s m ast, th e C hem Cam c a n h it
ro ck o r s o il t a rg ets u p t o 2 3 f e et a w ay w it h e n ou gh e n erg y t o c re a te a
pin h ea d -s iz e sp ot o f g lo w in g, e x cit e d g as c a lle d p la sm a. A te le sc o p e
wit h a sp ectr o m ete r ca n th en o b se rv e a n d a n aly ze th e sp ectr u m o f
li g h t e m it te d b y t h e p la sm a, a n d it c a n id en tif y t h e c h em ic a l e le m en ts
of t h e s a m ple .
The t e le sc o p e, w it h a d ia m ete r o f 4 .3 3 in ch es, d ou ble s a s t h e o p tic s
fo r t h e in str u m en t’s c a m era , a n d it c a n a ls o b e u se d in dep en den tly
of
th e l a se r f o r o b se rv atio n s o f t a rg ets a t a n y d is ta n ce .
In fo rm atio n fr o m C hem Cam w ill h elp re se a rc h ers ch oose w hic h
ta rg ets to a p pro ach fo r m ore in te n siv e stu dy u sin g th e ro b otic a rm
an d th e la b ora to ry in str u m en ts . C hem Cam ca n a n aly ze m an y m ore
sa m ple s p er d ay th an th e m ore c o m ple x a n d slo w er p ro ce ssin g S A M
an d C heM in i n str u m en ts .
The C hem Cam ’s in fr a re d la se r ca n fo cu s m ore th an o n e m illi o n
watts o f p ow er o n a ro ck sa m ple fo r fiv e o n e-b illi o n th s o f a se co n d.
Lig h t fr o m th e re su lt in g fla sh c o m es b ack to C hem Cam th ro u gh th e
te le sc o p e, th en th ro u gh a b ou t 2 0 fe et o f o p tic a l fib er d ow n th e m ast
to t h re e s p ectr o m ete rs i n sid e t h e r o ver.
Am on g t h e m an y e le m en ts t h e in str u m en t c a n id en tif y in r o ck s a n d
so ils a re s o d iu m , m ag n esiu m , a lu m in u m , s ili c o n , c a lc iu m , p ota ssiu m ,

tit a n iu m , m an gan ese , ir o n , hyd ro gen , oxy gen , bery lli u m , li t h iu m ,
str o n tiu m , s u lf u r, n it r o gen , a n d p h osp h oru s. I f a r o ck h as a c o atin g o f
du st o r h as b een m od if ie d th ro u gh w ea th erin g, h undre d s o f r e p ea te d
pu ls e s fr o m th e la se r c a n r e m ove th ose la y ers to p ro vid e a r e a d in g o f
th e r o ck ’s in te rio r c o m posit io n a n d a c o m paris o n b etw een t h e in te rio r
an d t h e c o atin g.
Roger W ie n s, a g eo ch em is t w it h th e U .S . D ep artm en t o f E nerg y ’s
Lo s A la m os N atio n al Lab ora to ry in N ew M ex ic o , is th e prin cip al
in vestig ato r fo r C hem Cam . L o s A la m os p artn ere d w it h r e se a rc h ers in
Fra n ce , fu nded b y th e F re n ch n atio n al s p ace a g en cy , C en tr e N atio n al
d’É tu des S p atia le s, to d ev elo p , b u ild , an d te st th e in str u m en t. T he
la se r w as bu ilt by Thale s, Paris , Fra n ce . Lo s Ala m os Natio n al
Lab ora to ry s u ppli e d t h e s p ectr o m ete rs a n d d ata p ro ce sso rs .
Mars H an d L en s I m ag er ( M AH LI)
The M ars H an d L en s Im ag er is a fo cu sa b le c o lo r c a m era o n th e to ol-
bea rin g tu rre t a t th e e n d o f C urio sit y ’s r o b otic a rm . R ese a rc h ers w ill
use it fo r m ag n if ie d , c lo se -u p v ie w s o f ro ck s a n d so ils a n d a ls o
fo r
wid er sc e n es of th e gro u nd, th e la n dsc a p e, or ev en th e ro ver.
Esse n tia lly , i t i s a h an dh eld c a m era w it h a m acro l e n s a n d a u to fo cu s.
The in str u m en t ta k es it s nam e fr o m th e ty p e of han d le n s
mag n if y in g to ol th at e v ery fie ld g eo lo gis t c a rrie s fo r s e ein g d eta ils in
ro ck s. C olo r, c ry sta l s h ap es, m in era l p la n es, a n d o th er v is ib le d eta ils
fr o m th ese clo se -u p ob se rv atio n s pro vid e clu es to th e ro ck ’s
co m posit io n .
In s e d im en ta ry r o ck s, t h e s iz e s a n d s h ap es o f t h e g ra in s in t h e r o ck ,
alo n g w it h th e s c a le o f fin e la y erin g, p ro vid e in fo rm atio n a b ou t h ow
th e g ra in s w ere tr a n sp orte d a n d d ep osit e d . S h arp -e d ged g ra in s h av e
not b een w orn d ow n b y tu m bli n g lo n g d is ta n ce s, fo r e x am ple . T he
siz e o f g ra in s ca n in dic a te w heth er th e w ate r o r w in d th at ca rrie d
th em w as m ovin g q u ic k ly o r n ot. T his in fo rm atio n gath ere d fr o m
MAH LI im ag es c a n a id b oth in s e le ctin g t a rg ets t o a n aly ze w it h o th er
in str u m en ts an d in dir e ctly re a d in g th e en vir o n m en ta l his to ry
re co rd ed i n t h e r o ck s a n d s o ils .

As a clo se -u p mag n if y in g ca m era , MAH LI re se m ble s th e
Mic ro sc o p ic I m ag er i n str u m en t m ou nte d a t t h e e n d o f t h e r o b otic a rm
on e a ch o f th e tw in M ars ro vers S p ir it a n d O pportu nit y . B ut M AH LI
has sig n if ic a n tly gre a te r ca p ab ili t ie s th an th ose pre d ece sso rs — fu ll
co lo r, li g h ts , a n d a d ju sta b le fo cu s. A ls o , it sit s o n a lo n ger a rm , o n e
th at c a n h old M AH LI u p h ig h er th an th e c a m era s o n th e r o ver’s m ast
fo r s e ein g o ver a n o b sta cle o r c a p tu rin g a r o ver s e lf -p ortr a it .
MSSS d ev elo p ed , b u ilt , a n d o p era te s M AH LI.
Rad ia tio n A sse ssm en t D ete cto r ( R AD )
The R ad ia tio n A sse ssm en t D ete cto r w ill m on it o r h ig h -e n erg y a to m ic
an d su bato m ic partic le s re a ch in g M ars fr o m th e su n, dis ta n t
su pern ovas, an d o th er so u rc e s. T hese p artic le s co n stit u te n atu ra lly
occu rrin g ra d ia tio n th at c o u ld b e h arm fu l to a n y m ic ro b es n ea r th e
su rfa ce o f M ars o r to astr o n au ts o n a fu tu re M ars m is sio n . R A D ’s
mea su re m en ts w ill h elp fu lf ill th e M ars Scie n ce Lab ora to ry (M SL )
go al of asse ssin g wheth er Curio sit y ’s la n din g re g io n ev er had
co n dit io n s f a v o ra b le f o r l i f e a n d f o r p re se rv in g e v id en ce a b ou t l i f e .
Unli k e th e re st o f th e m is sio n , R A D w as p artia lly fu nded fr o m th e
NASA h um an ex p lo ra tio n p ro gra m an d w ill h elp in th e d esig n of
hum an m is sio n s b y d ete rm in in g h ow m uch sh ie ld in g fr o m ra d ia tio n
fu tu re astr o n au ts w ill need . The in str u m en t to ok m ea su re m en ts
du rin g th e tr ip fr o m E arth to M ars b eca u se th e ra d ia tio n le v els in
in te rp la n eta ry s p ace a re a ls o im porta n t in p la n nin g h um an m is sio n s,
an d i t w ill c o n tin u e t o d o s o w hile C urio sit y i s m ovin g a cro ss M ars .
The So u th w est R ese a rc h In stit u te in B ou ld er, C olo ra d o, an d San
Anto n io , T ex as, to geth er w it h C hris tia n A lb re ch ts U niv ers it y in K ie l,
Germ an y, bu ilt RA D w it h fu ndin g fr o m th e NASA Exp lo ra tio n
Sy ste m s M is sio n Dir e cto ra te an d Germ an y’s natio n al aero sp ace
re se a rc h c e n te r, D eu ts c h es Z en tr u m f ü r L u ft - u nd R au m fa h rt.
Dyn am ic A lb ed o o f N eu tr o n s ( D AN )
The D yn am ic A lb ed o of N eu tr o n s in vestig atio n ca n dete ct w ate r
bou nd in to sh allo w underg ro u nd m in era ls alo n g C urio sit y ’s path .

DAN sh oots n eu tr o n s in to th e g ro u nd an d m ea su re s h ow th ey are
sc a tte re d , g iv in g it a h ig h se n sit iv it y fo r fin din g a n y h yd ro gen to a
dep th o f a b ou t 2 0 i n ch es d ir e ctly b en ea th t h e r o ver.
The in str u m en t ca n be use d to id en tif y pro m is in g pla ce s fo r
in vestig atio n w it h C urio sit y ’s o th er to ols . A ls o , ro ck fo rm atio n s th at
th e ro ver’s c a m era s v ie w a t th e su rfa ce m ay b e tr a ce d u nderg ro u nd
by D AN , e n h an cin g t h e a b ili t y o f s c ie n tis ts t o u nders ta n d t h e g eo lo gy .
The w ord
alb ed o
m ea n s re fle cta n ce — in th is ca se , h ow h ig h -e n erg y
neu tr o n s in je cte d in to th e g ro u nd b ou nce o ff o f a to m ic n u cle i in th e
gro u nd.
The R ussia n F ed era l S p ace A gen cy c o n tr ib u te d D AN t o M SL a s p art
of a b ro ad c o lla b ora tio n b etw een th e U nit e d S ta te s a n d R ussia
in th e
ex p lo ra tio n o f s p ace . R ussia ’s S p ace R ese a rc h In stit u te d ev elo p ed th e
in str u m en t in clo se co op era tio n w it h th e N . L. D ukh ov A ll- R ussia
Rese a rc h In stit u te o f A uto m atic s in M osc o w a n d t h e J o in t In stit u te o f
Nucle a r R ese a rc h i n D ubn a, R ussia .
Mars D esc e n t I m ag er ( M AR D I)
Durin g th e fin al fe w m in u te s o f C urio sit y ’s fli g h t to th e su rfa ce o f
Mars , th e M ars D esc e n t Im ag er w ill re co rd a fu ll- c o lo r v id eo o f th e
gro u nd belo w . This w ill pro vid e th e M SL te a m w it h in fo rm atio n
ab ou t th e la n din g s it e a n d it s s u rro u ndin gs to a id in in te rp re ta tio n o f
th e ro ver’s g ro u nd-le v el v ie w s a n d in th e p la n nin g o f in it ia l d riv es.
The v id eo w ill a ls o g iv e v ie w ers w orld w id e t h e u npre ce d en te d v ir tu al
ex p erie n ce o f r id in g a s p ace cra ft t o a l a n din g o n M ars .
The f u ll v id eo — av aila b le f ir s t f r o m t h e t h um bn ails in Y ou T ube-li k e
re so lu tio n a n d la te r in fu ll d eta il— will b eg in w it h a g li m pse o f th e
hea t s h ie ld f a lli n g a w ay f r o m b en ea th t h e r o ver. T he f ir s t v ie w s o f t h e
gro u nd w ill c o ver a n a re a s e v era l m ile s a cro ss a n d t h en p ro gre ssiv ely
sm alle r a re a s u ntil to u ch dow n. T he v id eo w ill li k ely ju m p b ack a n d
fo rth q u it e a b it a s th e Im ag er d esc e n ds— fir s t d u e to th e p ara ch ute ,
th en d u e to r o ck et e n gin e v ib ra tio n s, a n d fin ally a s th e r o ver s w in gs
on t e th ers d u rin g t h e s k y-c ra n e l a n din g.
MSSS p ro vid ed M ARD I.

M arc K au fm an h as b een a jo u rn ali s t f o r m ore t h an 3 5 y ea rs, in clu din g t h e
pa st 1 2 a s a s c ie n ce a n d s p a ce w rit e r, f o re ig n c o rre sp o n den t, a n d e d it o r
fo r t h e
W ash in gto n P ost.
He is a ls o a u th or o f
F ir s t C on ta ct: S cie n tif ic
Bre a k th ro u gh s i n t h e H unt f o r L if e B ey o n d E arth ,
pu bli s h ed in 2 011,
a n d h as s p o k en e x te n siv ely t o c ro w ds a cro ss t h e U nit e d S ta te s a n d a bro a d
a bo u t a str o bio lo gy . H e li v es o u ts id e W ash in gto n , D .C ., w it h h is w if e , L yn n
Lit te rin e
.
(S eth S h osta k )
X