By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Rob Manning, William L. Simon
Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
Curiosity is a mechanical, one-eyed, six wheeled, antenna-tailed super dog. It can stiff the air, drill rocks, analyze elemental particles, roam a countryside (at a snail’s pace 300 feet per hour), and talk to humans. Its language is in 1s and 0s. It speaks to Earth from Mars across 49 million miles of space with a message that continues to amaze and encourage human exploration of the universe.
Curiosity launches on November 26, 2011 to arrive on Mars August 6, 2012. It lands on the Aeolis Palus plain, a crater that may be an ancient lake bed. As of May 17, 2015, Curiosity continues to explore Mars and deliver information on the history of earth’s mysterious neighbor.
Robert Manning, in collaboration with William Simon (Manning’s ghost writer), reflects on the technological feat of creating and delivering a robotic laboratory to the fourth rock from the sun. Manning heads a team of NASA scientists and engineers to design the latest land rover, called Curiosity, to explore Mars.
Curiosity is meant to search for artifacts of life on Mars while testing the potential for colonization of another planet. To date, no definitive answers are given but Manning’s story suggests many of the building blocks of life may have, at one time, been present on Mars. However today’s Martian atmosphere is proven by Curiosity to be principally made of carbon dioxide and water vapor as opposed to nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and other elements present on earth. The average temperature on Mars is 81 degrees Fahrenheit versus 57 degrees on Earth (a misleading metric because of the huge extremes on Mars). Gravity is only .375 that of Earth which has significant ramification for sustainability of human life on Mars.
No clear historical evidence of life on Mars has been discovered but the existence of fluctuating levels of methane in the atmosphere may mean Mars is geologically active and holds the potential for microscopic life. Methane contains hydrogen and carbon but with little discovered oxygen. There is limited chance of any life form representative of earth; at least, anything larger than a microbe.
“Mars Rover Curiosity” is a tribute to NASA and its organizational skill in achieving a land mark in extraterrestrial exploration. In listening to Manning’s story, one feels humans are on the edge of a continent in the 15th century, planning to sail to an unexplored place to find answers about what there is beyond imagination. NASA’s contribution to science and a possible future for humanity seems inferred by Manning’s story; particularly in light of current scientific evidence for Earth’s global warming.