At a little after 10:00 this morning, the Mars Curiosity Rover launched from Cape Canaveral on an 8 1/2 month journey to the red planet. NASA is hoping that the Curiosity will be able to find evidence that life once existed on Mars.
CBS News reports that an unmanned Atlas V rocket launched the Mars Curiosity Rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into space this morning. The Curiosity is ten feet long, 9 feet wide, 7 feet tall and weighs more than a ton. It has 6 wheels and can climb over obstacles as tall as two feet. It is also equipped with a laser that can blast rocks from more than 20 feet away.
Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars program, told the Chicago Tribune:
“It’s not your father’s rover. It’s truly … the largest and most complex piece of equipment ever placed on the surface of another planet.”
Here’s a video of the historic launch.
The Mars Curiosity Rover’s main mission is to uncover evidence that Mars once supported microbial life. The Curiosity is equipped with several instruments and measuring devices to collect and analyze Mars rocks in the hope of finding “organic compounds.” Curiosity will start its search for extraterrestrial life at a massive crater, called Gale crater, near Mars’ equator.
Gale Crater has a three-mile high mountain at the center of it. NASA believes that the crater may have once been filled with water since the rock face is striated in layers.
Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said:
“The crowning achievement … is to drill into rocks and capture material from the insides of rocks, which we’ve never done on Mars, and that’s really where the science will come from.”
The Mars Curiosity Rover is expected to land on the red planet next August. If everything goes to plan, this is what the Mars Curiosity Mission should look like.
Do you think the Curiosity will find life on Mars?