Curiosity On Mars

WHEN A ROBOT THE SIZE OF A JEEP SUCCESSFULLY LANDED ON THE PLANET MARS, IT WAS A BIG STEP FORWARD IN MAN’S CONQUEST OF SPACE. A MAJOR ENGINEERING FEAT, CURIOSITY’S SOFT, TARGETED LANDING AROUSES HOPE THAT A MANNED VEHICLE MAY ONE DAY BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME.

Simultaneously stimulating our imaginations, this feat once again confirms the power of science and technology.

THE BIGGEST DISCOVERIES ARE GOING TO BE THE SURPRISING ONES
Because the measurements and the research that Curiosity is going to carry out are far more comprehensive and detailed than any conducted up to now, they are going to add a fresh new dimension to what we know about the planet. The most important and exciting discoveries in that sense will not be the results that are planned and predicted but, on the contrary, the surprises that no one has anticipated. As science buffs and curious individuals, we shall be following this project over the course of its two Earth year lifetime. Is human life possible on Mars? Even if the answer is ‘yes’ from a technological point of view, what matters here is cost and whether it is really necessary to put humans on Mars. Sending a manned spacecraft to Mars and bringing it back again to Earth could require an investment several hundred times larger than Curiosity project’s two and a half billion dollar budget. Such a venture therefore warrants a cost-benefit analysis on an entirely different scale.

POTENTIAL DISCOVERIES FOR A BETTER LIFE
With the data we currently have in hand, and the technologies whose extensions we can already discern, it appears that man’s quest for life in space will not go beyond a sense of curiosity and exploration by a handful of very select individuals. But even following from Earth the daily lives of a few adventurers who have formed the first colony on Mars could pave the way for unexpected gains that will strain the imagination and arouse the interest and excitement of millions. Consequently, if we consider that man’s most important resource is the capacity of each individual for creativity driven by excitement and curiosity, then there is a possibility that a manned mission to Mars could trigger the discoveries needed for a better life on our own planet.

FOLLOWING CURIOSITY
There is no doubt that people, if perhaps not in the thousands, would line up to go to Mars today if they had the chance, even if they were not to come back. Such adventurers differ little from the explorers who set sail into the unknown in the 15th century. But it is also certain that sending people to space in this way will not be embraced by society in general. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a manned Mars mission therefore is the development of the rocket technologies that will make it possible, both technologically and financially, the ability to come back again after landing there.

What remains for us now is to follow Curiosity and continue apace our research and development and quest for new technology.

KOÇ UNIVERSITY RECTOR, UMRAN İNAN
Prof. Dr. Umran İnan was born in Erzincan in 1950. A graduate of Middle East Technical University, İnan earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University in 1977. Staying at Stanford after completing her doctorate, İnan was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1992. A professor at Stanford from 1992 to 2009, İnan has been the Rector of Koç University since then.

RIVER BED HOTTAH
Shortly after it landed, Curiosity found pebbles and other evidence that proves there was once flowing water on the surface of Mars. Scientists have called the area where one such riverlike bed was encountered Hottah. Although there was evidence of water on Mars earlier, there was none comparable to that found now by Curiosity.

WAS THERE LIFE ON MARS?
One of the questions that most excites scientists is whether or not there was once life on Mars. Curiosity has encountered some very powerful evidence that there was indeed water on Mars, and the discovery on water on the planet considerably reinforces the hypothesis that there might once have been life on the planet as well. The pebble-like stones found at Goulburn, Link and Hottah especially constitute the most compelling evidence so far that there might be water on Mars.

RETURNING TO EARTH TIME
Because a Mars day (left) is 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, the working hours of the Curiosity team are reset every few weeks. The team, which again started working hours appropriate to Earth time last month, previously had to work late into the night.