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Worlds apart: The Curiosity Rover is searching for evidence of life near Glenelg, Mars
Mars rover near Glenelg
Update by news editor   24-08-2012

Mars rover heads to Glenelg

Highland village celebrates link to Red Planet

Nasa's roving robot Curiosity has landed on Mars and is heading for a place called Glenelg.

No - not the tiny Scottish village in the Highlands, but an area within a giant crater on the Red Planet.

The Martian Glenelg was named by Nasa scientists because the Curiosity rover will visit the area twice, once coming and once going, and the name is a palindrome - it reads the same backwards as it does forwards.

It just so happens that Glenelg is also the name of a village in Inverness-shire, whose 350 residents are hoping to receive extra visitors now that the name of their community has been put on the inter-galactic map!

"The search for life on Mars has put our Glenelg on the map - at least on this planet," said Christopher Main who lives and works in Glenelg, Inverness-shire.

"There is plenty of life in Glenelg - they may not find it on Mars but they would here," he added.

The Mars robot, which landed two weeks ago, is searching for evidence of life on the distant planet. It set off from Earth eight-and-a-half months ago and will spend the next two years exploring the Martian landscape.

Curiosity has practised driving on the planet's rocky surface to check that its six wheels work properly. On Wednesday it rolled forwards 4.5 metres, turned on the spot120 degrees, and reversed up 2.5 metres.

It has been built to drive at least 20 kilometres across the surface of Mars to investigate if the planet ever had the conditions needed for life to exist there.


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Mars rover heads to Glenelg

Martian bacteria watch out - Curiosity is coming to find you!

Nasa's huge robot, Curiosity, has arrived on Mars to find out whether the planet is, or ever has been, suitable for life.

The Curiosity rover is a giant science laboratory.  It's as big as a car!

Curiosity is the largest and best-equipped robot to ever explore another planet.  It landed on the surface of Mars on 5 August after an eight-and-a-half month journey through space.

The rover cost £1.6 billion dollars to build and was launched on November 26 from the Kennedy Space Centre.

The aim of Curiosity's mission is to find out whether there has ever been life on Mars. Do aliens really exist? Sadly, Curiosity is unlikely to find giant green space men. If there has ever been life on Mars it was probably something microscopic, such as bacteria.

Curiosity is packed full of high-tech equipment. Most impressive is a powerful laser which has the energy of a million light bulbs. The powerful laser zaps a small bit of red Martian rock and vaporises it. Curiosity will analyse the vaporized rock to see if it contains the elements carbon, nitrogen or oxygen.

On Earth, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are necessary for life. Nothing can live without at least one of these elements. Scientists think they will probably be necessary for life everywhere in the Universe. If Curiosity finds any of these elements it will use its drill, attached to a 2 metre long robotic arm, to collect rock samples.

Curiosity also has a weather station to measure temperature, wind and humidity. Nasa is planning to launch an app using these readings to show you what the weather is like on Mars. You might be able to get live Martian weather on your phone!

Smaller Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, used air bags to land on Mars in 2004. Curiosity is far too heavy to use air bags. Instead, the flying-saucer shaped probe which carried Curiosity used rockets to hover 20 metres above the Martian surface. Once the probe was hovering safely, it lowered Curiosity to the surface of Mars using a "sky crane".

The rover landed in a huge crater near the Martian equator. Now it is going to spend two years exploring Mars. Any Martian bacteria should watch out. Curiosity is coming to find you!


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adapted from article by Mike Merritt
read original story here

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