PDT Staff Writer
Dr. Tim Hamilton, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Clark Planetarium at Shawnee State University said there are high expectations for NASA’s new Mars rover, ‘Curiosity.’
The $2.6 billion Curiosity, landed on Mars early Monday morning. Hamilton said the older techniques of putting the Mars rover on the surface of an alien planet would not have guaranteed the rover would not suffer damage.
“The work this (Mars rover) is going to do and the technology that was used to land it was incredible,” Hamilton said. “As I understand it they (NASA) had to come up with a new method of landing this because it’s the biggest rover they’ve landed on Mars yet.”
Before working at SSU, Hamilton worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center for two years. While there, he completed his post doctoral research. Before that, Hamilton worked with the Hubble Space Telescope, and he started working at SSU in 2003 after he left NASA.
“I will be really excited to see what this (Curiosity) does in finding more about the past conditions of the geology on Mars. How wet and warm Mars was, if there was anything that would have allowed some kind of life to develop there three or four billion years ago,” Hamilton said. “We’re very excited to see what this is going to show us. It has shown real promise already.”
Hamilton said the rover will be able to examine rocks and the chemical composition of them. He said the rover should get a better feel of the geology of the planet.
“To one extent or another this has been the mission of many Mars rovers,” Hamilton said.
He said the Curiosity Rover is vastly different than the NASA rovers of the past.
“The rovers of the 70’s were stuck in one position and could only see what they could see from that position,” Hamilton said.
Even though the rovers tend not to cover a large amount of the planet, they can drive around and look at things not yet seen.
“The hopeful outcome of this is to give us a perspective so that we can understand the early conditions of Mars billions of years ago and to find out if there was any chance of life evolving on Mars before the cooled of and dried off into a frozen dessert,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the mission of Curiosity is expected to last two-and-a-half years.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or email@example.com.