Scientists from NASA spoke with reporters on Monday, June 11, about the Curiosity rover that is currently on its way to Mars. In the teleconference, scientists spoke about an updated landing spot for the Mars rover and an unexpected contamination problem. The scientists stated that the contamination issue should not hinder the craft and should let it be able to complete its mission successfully.
The Curiosity rover was launched on the 2.5 billion dollar mission in November 2011 and the craft is expected to reach Gale Crater on Mars by August 5. The two year mission will help scientists on Earth answer the question of whether microbial life exists on Mars right now.
In order to test for life, the rover will have to drill into the bedrock. NASA has disclosed that the drill being used may contaminate the samples with Teflon. The drilling will cause Teflon from the seals of the drill to mix with the sample that Curiosity rover will deposit into its on-board lab called Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The lab will basically test for organic carbon but Teflon might make it harder to identify if any carbon being discovered is from the drill or Mars. Another substance called molybdenum disulfide may also contaminate samples. For now, the scientists are not worried about the Teflon issue because they believe there are several ways to work around the matter without jeopardizing the mission.
NASA scientists did have some good news and they explained that as the space craft carrying curiosity approached Mars, they had a more accurate idea of where it was going to land. This had also allowed them to reduce the distance of the rover target by half which will save a lot of time during the mission. NASA researchers say that once the rover has landed successfully they will be able see images from Mars right away. However, real data will come when the rover finally makes it to the mountain within Gale crater and takes samples and sends the results back home.