Mars Rover to Use New Techniques in Search for Alien Life

The Mars rover Curiosity will be given more time to look for signs of life when it lands on the planet this summer thanks to NASA scientists' ambition to better define the rover's landing site. 

What's the Latest Development?


Thanks to increased confidence in new landing technology, NASA scientists are shrinking the target area for the Mars rover Curiosity, which will touch down on the red planet this August. "We’re trimming the distance we’ll have to drive after landing by almost half," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, meaning Curiosity could reach Gale Crater, an interesting piece of Martian real estate, months earlier than originally planned. Once at the crater, scientists will direct the rover to collect and analyze soil samples for signs of past life. 

What's the Big Idea?

Rather than search for microbes like the Viking missions of the 1970s, Curiosity will look for places and times which may have supported life on the alien surface. One of the most interesting features of the Gale Crater is a 3-mile high mound of debris known as Mount Sharp. The rise is believed to be a geographical record of Mars the same way in which rock layers define different time periods on Earth. "Organic carbon compounds in an environment are one prerequisite for life. We know meteorites deliver non-biological organic carbon to Mars, but not whether it persists near the surface," said John Grotzinger, the mission’s project scientist. "We will be checking for that and for other chemical and mineral clues about habitability."

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The world and workforce need wisdom. Why don’t universities teach it?

Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?

Photo: Take A Pix Media / Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Many university mission statements do not live up to their promise, writes Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a university designed to develop intellect over content memorization.
  • The core competencies that students need for success—critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and cross-cultural understanding, for example—should be intentionally taught, not left to chance.
  • These competencies can be summed up with one word: wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to apply one's knowledge appropriately when faced with novel situations.
Keep reading Show less

What the world will look like in the year 250,002,018

This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now

On Pangaea Proxima, Lagos will be north of New York, and Cape Town close to Mexico City
Surprising Science

To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.

Keep reading Show less

From zero to hero in 18 years: How SpaceX became a nation-state

SpaceX's momentous Crew Dragon launch is a sign of things to come for the space industry, and humanity's future.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk celebrates after the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the manned Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Earlier in the day NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley lifted off an inaugural flight and will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States.

Photo:Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • SpaceX was founded in 2002 and was an industry joke for many years. Eighteen years later, it is the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.
  • Today, SpaceX's Crew Dragon launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. The journey will take about 19 hours.
  • Dylan Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, looks at SpaceX's journey from startup to a commercial space company with the operating power of a nation-state.
Keep reading Show less

Six-month-olds recognize (and like) when they’re being imitated

A new study may help us better understand how children build social cognition through caregiver interaction.

Personal Growth
  • Scientists speculate imitation helps develop social cognition in babies.
  • A new study out of Lund University shows that six-month-olds look and smile more at imitating adults.
  • Researchers hope the data will spur future studies to discover what role caregiver imitation plays in social cognition development.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…