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NASA scientist: Curiosity's first year on Mars 'awesome'

August 05, 2013
  • MSL project scientist John Grotzinger got a rock star welcome when he entered a post-landing press conference last year with the principals who successfully landed the Mars Rover Curiosity.
MSL project scientist John Grotzinger got a rock star… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

On the first anniversary of NASA's rover Curiosity's touchdown in Gale Crater, Mars Science Laboratory lead scientist John Grotzinger says the team has a lot to be thankful for — and much more to look forward to. The Caltech geologist spoke with The Times about the risks the team took, the groundbreaking findings early in the mission and what they plan to do when they finally reach their goal: Mt. Sharp, the mountain in the middle of Gale Crater.

Curiosity's mission was to search for habitable environments — places where microbial life could have potentially existed. And it found one before even getting close to Mt. Sharp. How do you guys feel about that?

It’s pretty awesome. We did not just find a habitable environment but one that’s actually very benign.
It’s nice to have that in the bag, and all the concerns we might have had about being able to find a target like that are taken care of. And it makes us go into a more mature, more relaxed phase of the mission. We’re still going to take our time to make sure that we really study things carefully along the way, but we’re really excited now to move as quickly as possible to Mt. Sharp — and investigate what we hope could be more habitable environments there.

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--Amina Kahn, Los Angeles Times

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