NASA launched the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) last year, expecting the craft to take about 8 and a half months to reach Mars. In 161 days it will descend down to the red planet and travel to the Gale Crater. There at the crater Curiosity will collect rock samples and using the on-board CheMin, it will analyze the samples for minerals on Mars. We already know that olivine and pyroxene were found on Mars by earlier rover missions. These are associated with the volcanic rock basalt. In addition, the earlier mission also found evaporates (minerals left from water). I am praying that Curiosity has a successful mission and look forward to its discoveries!
Last week I was able to visit a place that reminded me a little of what I think Mars may be like in areas. On our trip to Death Valley we stopped at Fossil Falls. Having been there last year, a few of us geology majors sidetracked over to nearby Red Mountain, a cinder cone where "volcanic bombs" are found. While "trying" to walk in this environment, I thought about the future Curiosity trek on Mars and wished I had wheels instead of legs to maneuver this terrain. I imagined Mars as a geology wonderland (no ground cover or vegetation to prevent geologists from studying the rocks). If you would like to follow the MSL Mission visit http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/overview/