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Geologists see signs that seismic shocks as powerful as magnitude-7 quakes on Earth have rumbled on the Red Planet recently, and such "marsquakes" could be a good thing for the search for life on Mars. "The fact that Mars is geologically active means that it may offer geothermal power, subsurface liquid water, and extant life," Robert Zubrin, a rocket scientist and president of the nonprofit Mars Society, told me in an email.
Seismic actvity on Mars could mean underground water -- which could mean life
a spacecraft equipped with a seismometer, a heat-flow probe and other sensors
Science instruments are state-of-the-art tools for acquiring information about the geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions, and potential biosignatures on Mars. Mars Science Laboratory will carry:
Mast Camera (Mastcam)
Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)
Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)
Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)
Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam)
Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin)
Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite
Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD)
Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN)
Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS)
Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI)
Not to mention the arm also equipped with a drill to penetrate the surface and dig deeper for samples to analyze.