|The site under investigation. Image courtesy of NASA|
Even better yet, those clever scientists operating Curiosity developed a unique technique for the robot to use to actually assess the age of the Martian rocks containing evidence of that not as long ago as imagined lake. Of course, "more recent" means 3.86 to 4.56 billion years ago. This is a method predicted not to work before Curiosity landed. So glad that theory was proven wrong.
And best of all, the Curiosity team reports they have discovered that the winds of Mars ... carrying sand to blast rock faces, eroding them faster than scientists had imagined ... are useful in directing Curiosity to regions where evidence of the building blocks of past life might ... just might (scientists are so cautious) ... exist.
Oh, by the way, one more thing. On its trip to Mars, and now on the surface, Curiosity has been counting radiation for us. The plucky robot is letting us know that astronauts on a round trip to Mars and back would be exposed to roughly 1,000 miliseverts of radiation. That increases a human to a 5 percent increased chance of developing cancer in a lifetime. NASA's current limit is exposure increasing the risk by 3 percent. The team now awaits a major solar event to see how much additional radiation that would dump on the human body during the trip. Much ethics review will ensue. Stay tuned.
Thanks to my friends at Universe Today and NASA for this fascinating information ... and for bringing us one step closer to that sci-fi future.