Media Advisory: Expert available – Curiosity on Mars: What does it mean?

Eric Carlson, an associate professor of physics who also teaches astronomy, is available to provide local commentary on Curiosity on Mars. He can address what it means to the future of the U.S. space program, dispel myths related to folklore about the red planet, and discuss how the discovery could prompt an increase in science education.

Carlson says NASA and the astronomical community have a longstanding interest in exploring Mars. Determining if Mars had or even has life is an important tool in this ongoing exploration.

He says the landing is the most difficult part of the whole mission. “There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and based on past experience, many things do go wrong. If so, it would have been a disaster, with billions of dollars at stake. So, it is a big deal that it succeeded.”

What specifically we will learn from it, will remain unknown until there is actually data, but Carlson has some ideas:
  • “It is unlikely, but possible, that Curiosity might find convincing evidence that Mars once had life on it. I think the odds of them finding a fossil are pretty slim.”
  • “What we can expect it to find is a pretty good geologic history of Mars. We should know in a year or so if and when there was water on Mars, and how conducive it was to life in the past.”

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