Indian scientist in team that fixed Mars rover landing site
Houston: An Indian scientist who was a part of the NASA team which had identified the landing site of the `Curiosity` rover on the red planet, today described the spot as "very exciting" and holding "great promise".
The scientist Amitabh Ghosh, chair of the science operations working group at NASA Mars Exploration Rover Mission, was a member of the team that zeroed in on the Gale crater location where the car-sized rover successfully landed today at 5.30 GMT (11:00 IST).
"We were very, very concerned. This is a very tough sequence to do. Imagine you are trying to land on the earth and you are testing a bunch of technologies which together you have never tested and you know very little about the atmosphere," an overwhelmed Ghosh explained the challenges faced by the mission.
"This is a very big deal. This is the moment which comes down to thousands of people working over five to six years. If this crashes, there is nothing after that," he told a news channel.
Gale crater location, 24,78,38,976 kilometres from home was chosen after observations from orbit identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.
"Clay minerals occur in water related environment, and also we see layering in this crater. On earth, sedimentary rocks show layering and that is again an evidence of water rich environment," he said.
"And the other thing is you have a central uplift in the crater, which is like a mountain, again you see layering on top of that. So scientifically it is very interesting once you have something like layering, each layer can potentially be a window into the martial environment at a specific point of time and that is what we want," Ghosh added.
Curiosity which has traveled nearly 570 million kilometres since it was launched in November will gather evidence whether Mars is or was capable of hosting life, probably in microbial form.
"Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said an ecstatic NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
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