NASA’s Curiosity rover has already made a number of remarkable discoveries in just seven months on Mars. Here’s a “Top Five” list:
— Chemicals of life: NASA announces Tuesday that analysis of a Martian rock finds chemistry that could have once supported living things on the Red Planet.
— Once-habitable environment: More than three billion years ago, relatively freshwater flowed over clay lake beds packed with minerals useful for biochemistry, inside Gale Crater, where the rover now roams.
— Gray Mars: The drill on the rover revealed sub-surface conditions on Mars that point to distinctly different coloration for the Red Planet in the past. Instead of the ubiquitous ruddy dust now coating the planet, a mudstone gray appears to have carpeted the floor of Gale Crater.
— Aloha, Mars: An X-ray spectrum analysis of the surface dust on Mars finds that chemically it resembles the basaltic lava spewed from Hawaii’s volcanoes. The find points to volcanic origins for the dust.
STORY: Life on Mars? Rover shows it could’ve been possible
— Astronaut hazards: Radiation monitoring sensors on the rover have confirmed that radiation on the Martian surfaces rivals conditions in interplanetary space, important knowledge for the safety of future explorers.