Scientists have long searched for evidence that there might have once been life on Mars. The recent discovery of mud cracks on the planet has led to interest from the scientific community, as well as speculation that it could be a sign that life once existed on the Red Planet.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recently captured a closer look at a series of slabs of rock that has unexplained markings. Experts believe the markings are likely mud cracks, indicating that bodies of water may once have existed on the planet. The markings could be a sign that the water covering the rocks eventually dried up, leading to cracks in the dirt on their surface.
When space enthusiasts heard about a planned Mars rover mission in 2020, many of them grew excited that a manned spacecraft might soon follow. However, in a recent teleconference, NASA revealed that there are no plans beyond the rover.
The challenge, as described by Jim Watzin, who directs the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, is getting the approval and funding for future Mars missions. The rover is still under development, making it the ideal time for advocates to try to get further programs approved. However, Watzin says the current environment simply makes it too difficult to get new missions into the program.
Through pictures, we’ve been able to glimpse the surface of Mars over the years. But rovers have yet to capture what a person would hear while standing on the Red Planet. That will likely change when Mars 2020 lands on the planet in early 2021.
According to NASA, the rover will be equipped with multiple microphones, each designed to capture sounds and send them back to Earth. The microphones won’t just capture audio on landing, but while the rover is moving around the planet, as well. This isn’t the first time NASA will have sent a microphone-equipped rover to Mars. But on previous missions, the microphones weren’t used to capture audio.