Special CollectionCuriosity

Exploring Martian Habitability

INTRODUCTION—In the search for organic remnants of past life, it is enormously helpful to have a paradigm to guide exploration. This begins with assessing habitability: Was the former environment supportive of life? If so, was it also conducive to preservation of organism remains, specifically large organic molecules? Five articles presented in the 24 January edition of Science describe the detection at Gale crater of a system of ancient environments that would have been habitable by chemoautotrophic microorganisms. A sixth article details a more ancient and also potentially habitable environment detected in Noachian age (>~3.7 billion years) rocks at Meridiani Planum. A seventh article describes the present radiation environment on the surface of Mars at Gale crater.

24 January 2014 | Introduction

Habitability, Taphonomy, and the Search for Organic Carbon on Mars

9 Decmber 2013 | News

New Results Send Mars Rover On a Quest for Ancient Life

Curiosity 's science team say their latest discoveries, published online today in Science, are narrowing down how and where to look for "molecular fossils"—organic matter that might have come from ancient martian microbes
24 January 2014 | Research Article

Ancient Aqueous Environments at Endeavour Crater, Mars

Slightly acidic to neutral water altered rocks on Endeavour's rim before and after formation of this ancient impact crater.
24 January 2014 | Research Article

A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars

An ancient lake deposit on Mars records a neutral pH and low salinity aqueous environment.
9 December 2013 | Research Article

Mineralogy of a Mudstone at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars

In situ analysis of a mudstone indicates that clay mineral formation on Mars extended beyond the Noachian Epoch.
9 December 2013 | Research Article

Elemental Geochemistry of Sedimentary Rocks at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars

Geochemical analysis of a mudstone provides further evidence for highly diverse sedimentary environments on early Mars.
9 December 2013 | Research Article

In Situ Radiometric and Exposure Age Dating of the Martian Surface

Geochronology measurements constrain the age of a mudstone on Mars and indicate how and when it got exposed to the surface.

9 December 2013 | Research Article

Volatile and Organic Compositions of Sedimentary Rocks in Yellowknife Bay, Gale crater, Mars

H2O, CO2, SO2, O2, H2, H2S, HCl, chlorinated hydrocarbons and NO were measured in a mudstone on Mars.
9 December 2013 | Research Article

Mars' Surface Radiation Environment Measured with the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity Rover

The best conditions for findings organics on Mars is in rocks or soils that have been more recently exposed and do not show signs of aqueous activity following exhumation.

Curiosity at Gale Crater

INTRODUCTION—The 6 August 2012 arrival of the curiosity rover on the surface of Mars delivered the most technically advanced geochemistry laboratory ever sent to the surface of another planet. Its 10 instruments were commissioned for operations and were tested on a diverse set of materials, including rocks, soils, and the atmosphere, during the first 100 martian days (sols) of the mission. The five articles presented in full in the online edition of Science describe the mission’s initial results, in which Curiosity’s full laboratory capability was used.

27 September 2013 | Introduction

Analysis of Surface Materials by Curiosity Mars Rover

Curiosity scooped up two samples of a small aeolian deposit, whose upper surface is armored by coarse sand grains.

27 September 2013 | Research Article

The Petrochemistry of Jake_M: A Martian Mugearite

Geochemical analysis indicates Jake_M originated from partial melting of a distinct portion of the Martian mantle.
27 September 2013 | Research Article

Soil Diversity and Hydration as Observed by ChemCam at Gale Crater, Mars

One of two main soil types identified is likely to be globally widespread and controls soil hydration.
27 September 2013 | Research Article

X-Ray Diffraction Results from Mars Science Laboratory: Mineralogy of Rocknest at Gale Crater

The dominant mineralogy of a wind-blown deposit includes plagioclase, forsteritic olivine, and two pyroxene phases.
27 September 2013 | Research Article

Curiosity at Gale Crater, Mars: Characterization and Analysis of the Rocknest Sand Shadow

Chemical analyses indicate that basaltic Martian soils may be locally sourced yet globally similar in composition.
27 September 2013 | Research Article

Volatile, Isotope, and Organic Analysis of Martian Fines with the Mars Curiosity Rover

The Rocknest deposit contains water bound to amorphous materials and several simple organic compounds.

More Curiosity Articles & Reports

20 September 2013 | Science Express

Low Upper Limit to Methane Abundance on Mars

Contrary to previous reports of "plumes" of methane in Mars' atmosphere, the Curiosity detected only an insignificant amount of the gas.
31 May 2013 | Perspective

Pebbles on Mars

The observation of conglomerates by the Mars rover Curiosity provides the most definitive proof yet of ancient river flow.

Google Earth perspective view of an alluvial fan in the Mojave Desert, USA, which is comparable to those described at Gale Crater.

31 May 2013 | Research Article

Martian Fluvial Conglomerates at Gale Crater

Observations from the Curiosity rover of rounded pebbles in sedimentary rocks confirm ancient water flows on Mars.
31 May 2013 | Report

Measurements of Energetic Particle Radiation in Transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory

The radiation dose on a round-trip to Mars could represent a large fraction of the accepted lifetime limit for astronauts.
19 July 2013 | Report

Isotope Ratios of H, C, and O in CO2 and H2O of the Martian Atmosphere

Data from the Curiosity rover provide a detailed account of the chemical and isotopic composition of Mars’ atmosphere.
19 July 2013 | Report

Abundance and Isotopic Composition of Gases in the Martian Atmosphere from the Curiosity Rover

Data from the Curiosity rover provide a detailed account of the chemical and isotopic composition of Mars’ atmosphere.

More Curiosity News

12 April 2013 | News Focus

Pesky Perchlorates All Over Mars

Curiosity rover has discovered perchlorates in equatorial Gale crater, implying that they carpet the martian surface and explaining why the rover stumbled in its first search for organic traces of ancient martian life.
31 August 2012 | News Focus

In the Hunt for the Red Planet's Dirtiest Secret

More obstacles to Curiosity rover's search for the organic remains of martian life are turning up, complicating an already daunting task.


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