Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on 26th November and touched down on Mars earlier today to explore Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).

The rover, which is the size of a small car, is designed to investigate the Martian climate and geology; assess whether Gale Crater has ever had water and other environmental conditions necessary for microbial life; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.

On board Curiosity are laser optics manufactured by an Isle of Man Company – CVI Technical Optics Ltd – which will be used to analyse rocks found on Mars.

This is not the time that CVI’s equipment has been used to search for life on Mars. Components produced by the company were used on the Phoenix Mars Lander, the craft which touched down near Mars’ North Pole in March 2008 and enthralled the world by beaming back historic first pictures of the barren landscape of the unexplored far north of the planet.

CVI’s general manager, Dr Helmut Kessler, said that this time round the company’s optics would be used in a laser not to probe the atmosphere but to test the rocks. He said: ‘The laser will be fired at rock samples to analyse what chemical elements are in them. The mission is to try to establish if there is water on Mars which will tell us whether in the past it has sustained life. ‘If there is water it will make life a bit easier if there is going to be a manned mission to Mars in the future.’

Curiosity’s design will serve as the basis for a planned unnamed 2020 Mars rover mission.

Category: Historic Events


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