Curiosity seeks evidence of microbes on Mars

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2012, 3:04am

At long last the big question may be answered: Is there life on Mars?

In one of the most daring space missions ever undertaken, Nasa landed its one-tonne rover, Curiosity, on Mars last month.

As Curiosity starts the first phase of its two-year primary mission, its main goal is to determine if the Red Planet ever supported microbial life. Or if it still does.

"Curiosity is equipped with a host of scientific instruments to study the geology and environment of Mars," Professor Kwok Sun said.

"The results will certainly be useful to determine whether Mars has the conditions to harbour life."

The rover even has a laser that can zap rocks to determine their make-up.

Kwok is confident the US$2.5 billion mission will uncover some kind of life as many bacteria can survive on earth in the harshest of environments.

"These environments are very similar to those on the likes of Mars, so there's every reason to believe bacteria can exist there as well. I'm very hopeful that something tangible will be found," he said. Kwok believes this mission is only the tip of the iceberg, and that as space travel technology advances, so too will the chances of finding life on other planets.

But it's not all about science. On Tuesday, Curiosity set another planetary record. The rover beamed to earth's new song Reach for the Stars in the first music broadcast from another planet.

The Black Eyed Peas musician's song was selected because he promotes science and mathematics education in the United States.