Nothing. Turbo, the high speed snail CGA character in the recent Dreamworks release now gracing America's theater's would probably be faster than Curiosity even if the little mollusk wasn't supercharged. The Curiosity Rover carrying the Mars Science Laboratory to the prominence, Mount Sharp, in the center of Gale Crater, must travel about five miles to get to the location where, according to NASA, concentrated scientific investigation is expected to explore "how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved". To place the new journey into perspective, between Bradbury Landing where the mission touched down, and Glenelg, where all of the science conducted so far has taken place, the distance is only about 500 yards.
The time allotted for the mission's science objectives is already 1/2 gone. Yet, the main science objective for the mission has already been achieved at Glenelg, less than 500 meters from touchdown. There, findings from the MSL have conclusively confirmed the sustained existence on ancient Mars of flowing streams and pools, with all of the conditions and ingredients to support the development and evolution of lifeforms. What we are talking about is conditions like those existing on Earth 4 billion years ago when life appeared on our planet.
When you think about those discoveries, don't visualize streams and pools in some kind of junglely Jurassic Park. By the time of the dinosaurs, Earth had an oxygen atmosphere and billions of years of experience living with an ever changing variety of microbes, plants, animals, etc. But when life first arose on Earth, and perhaps Mars as well, there was virtually no atmospheric oxygen. All life here was very tiny for billions of years. It wasn't until plants evolved on Earth after aeons passed, and began to excrete oxygen as part of photosynthesis metabolism, that atmospheric oxygen became available on our planet.
If Martian lifeforms evolved billions of years ago, under conditions like those on Earth when life emerged from this planet's primordial, molecular stew, the organisms may, at least, have left chemical and radiological and other evidence behind of their existence. Whether or not that is so, the rocks themselves will contain evidence of the evolution of conditions in Gale Crater as the atmosphere and surface climate evolved from the wetter warmer past to the arid deep freeze that is Mars today.
With the main scientific objective accomplished, the journey to Mount Sharp and the ensuing investigation promise much excitement and many more discoveries. Stay tuned.
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