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Get your act together, Curiosity! NASA panel says Mars rover needs more science, less driving

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It’s been two years since Curiosity landed on the Red Planet, and what does it have to show for itself? Well, it has found that Mars once had rivers and lakes. Life may have once been possible on the planet. But that might not be enough for one of NASA’s committees.

NASA’s Planetary Mission Senior Review panel posted its take on seven of NASA’s major missions this week, all of which received a rating of at least “good/fair” for their plans for future missions. It issued particularly harsh words to the Mars Science Laboratory mission, better known as the Curiosity rover for, among other things, spending too much time driving.

The rover has been traveling since July 2013 toward Mount Sharp, a mountain that could answer questions about Mars’ early environment. But wheel damage has slowed its pace. Curiosity has also been making pitstops along the way to conduct science experiments, but the panel said it hasn’t planned for enough.

Curiosity mission manager Rick Welch told me in May that long travel times are just a part of putting a rover on Mars.

“Say the next thing we see from the rover that we’re interested in is 2 kilometers away. And you say, ‘Great! Is that next week?’ Well, ideally, if everything was perfect and there was a paved road, yeah, then it would be next week,” Welch said in May. “But Mars isn’t like that. It’s sort of like backpacking, where you’re always like, ‘Once I get to the top of that ridge.’ And then you see another ridge and another ridge.”

A nearly exact replica of the Curiosity rover lives in a garage at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. It emerges about once a week to test new tasks and features. Photo by Signe Brewster.
A nearly exact replica of the Curiosity rover lives in a garage at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. It emerges about once a week to test new tasks and features. Photo by Signe Brewster.


The full list of complaints includes:

  • Curiosity is the only NASA tool that can detect carbon, do on-the-spot age analysis and measure certain types of particles, but only 13 soil and rock samples have been completed or planned.
  • “The proposal lacked specific scientific questions to be answered, testable hypotheses, and proposed measurements and assessment of uncertainties and limitations.”
  • The team did not describe the future role of one of its cameras and remote sensing equipment.
  • Driving long distances may shorten the amount of time the rover could use to examine Martian clays, which could hint at the planet’s habitability.
  • The team said Curiosity’s degrading power supply could limit its use beyond its first extended mission, but didn’t prove that it won’t be able to carry out future missions or lay out science goals for those missions.
  • “It was unclear from both the proposal and presentation that the (original) science goals had been met. In fact, it was unclear what exactly these were.”

Curiosity received the same “very good/good” rating as two other experiments. The 11-year-old Mars Express satellite was the only one to receive a lower rating.

2 Responses to “Get your act together, Curiosity! NASA panel says Mars rover needs more science, less driving”

  1. Babu G. Ranganathan


    In the Earth’s past there was powerful volcanic activity which could have easily spewed dirt and rocks containing microbes into outer space which not only could have eventually reached Mars but also ended up traveling in orbit through space that we now know as meteors, comets, and asteroids. A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions the high possibility of Earth life on Mars. “We think there’s about 7 million tons of earth soil sitting on Mars”, says scientist and evolutionist Kenneth Nealson. “You have to consider the possibility that if we find life on Mars, it could have come from the Earth” [Weingarten, T., Newsweek, September 21, 1998, p.12].

    HAVING THE RIGHT CONDITIONS AND RAW MATERIALS FOR LIFE doesn’t mean that life can originate by chance. Proteins can’t come into existence unless there’s life first! Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that individual amino acids (the building blocks of life) could come into existence by chance. But, it’s not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. If they’re not in the right sequence the protein molecules won’t work. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules.

    The probability of just an average size protein molecule arising by chance is 10 to the 65th power. Mathematicians have said any event in the universe with odds of 10 to 50th power or greater is impossible! The late great British scientist Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated that the odds of even the simplest cell coming into existence by chance is 10 to the 40,000th power! How large is this? Consider that the total number of atoms in our universe is 10 to the 82nd power.

    Also, what many don’t realize is that Miller had a laboratory apparatus that shielded and protected the individual amino acids the moment they were formed, otherwise the amino acids would have quickly disintegrated and been destroyed in the mix of random energy and forces involved in Miller’s experiment.

    There is no innate chemical tendency for the various amino acids to bond with one another in a sequence. Any one amino acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason at all for why the various amino acids bond with one another in a precise sequence in the cells of our bodies is because they’re directed to do so by an already existing sequence of molecules found in our genetic code.

    Of course, once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

    A partially evolved cell would quickly disintegrate under the effects of random forces of the environment, especially without the protection of a complete and fully functioning cell membrane. A partially evolved cell cannot wait millions of years for chance to make it complete and living! In fact, it couldn’t have even reached the partially evolved state.

    Please read my popular Internet articles listed below:


    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION


    Babu G. Ranganathan*

    (B.A. theology/biology)


    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

  2. Brian Fortney

    What do they have to hide from this multimillion dollar piece of machinery’s findings or experiments from another planet. The only reason they wouldnt let us know about its cameras or get clammy about revealing anything conclusive is if they actually did find something which they would classify immediately. They planned this trip to the letter as well as their excuses for misleading the public if need be.