By Tushna Commissariat
Earlier this week, NASA’s $1bn Curiosity rover landed on Mars and successfully started sending back data. The mission has taken a mammoth team of hundreds of scientists and engineers more than eight years to build and it promises to provide new insights into the Martian landscape while looking for conditions that could host life as we know it.
The rover can travel about 200 m per day and the current mission is expected to last about 687 Earth days or one Martian year. Being much heavier than previous rovers sent to Mars, Curiosity was lowered to the planet’s surface using a retro-rocket-firing “sky crane” that slowly deposited the car-sized rover. The unique and ultimately successful landing had people worldwide excited by the idea of travelling to other worlds once more.
Around the same time, it was revealed (albeit unofficially) that the Indian government has approved the country’s first ever mission to Mars, with a launch planned for November 2013 from the country’s spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the island of Sriharikota using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The £70m mission would follow just four years after India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission and the expected 500 kg orbiter would study Martian geology and climate. The mission has already been allocated £26m in the country’s science budget.
In the light of the current interest in sending robots or travelling to other planets in our solar system, this week we are asking you which planet you find the most captivating. Please let us know your opinion by taking part in this week’s Facebook poll.
Which is the most scientifically interesting planet in our solar system, apart from the Earth?
None of the above – exoplanets are more interesting
Have your say by visiting our Facebook page, and please feel free to explain your response or give us more suggestions by posting a comment below the poll.
In last week’s poll we asked you what would be the most beneficial way of spending $27m on physics, were you feeling very generous, in light of the newly established Fundamental Physics Prize. Of the 216 of you who voted, almost 60% thought that the money would be best spent by investing in a research institute, with another 21% supporting high-school education, 11% voting for funding numerous PhDs, 4% voting for funding goal-oriented competitions and 1% voting for awarding the money to high-achieving scientists – the category that the money is actually used for!
Thank you to everyone who took part and we look forward to hearing from you again in this week’s poll.