His purpose: To make sure the Mars Science Laboratory team was prepared to deal with space junk, lost signals and any other challenges he could think of to throw their way.
Before going incommunicado behind the Sun for a month, NASA¿s Mars Curiosity rover sent Earth evidence that the Red Planet has lost much of its original atmosphere. The findings, announced by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, bolster the idea that the Martian atmosphere was once much thicker than it is today, less than a month after the rover drilled its first rock and found signs Mars was once hospitable to life. Curiosity¿s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument tasted a sample of Martian atmosphere and counted up the abundance of isotopes of argon in the air. The researchers looked at two isotopes of argon, the heavier argon-38 and the lighter argon-36. They found that while there was four times as much argon-36 as argon-38, this ratio wasn¿t nearly as much as expected, based on data from other parts of the solar system.