NASA Prepares to Launch Curiosity

If all goes well, tomorrow morning at approximately 10:02 a.m. Eastern time (GMT-5), NASA will launch its newest rover named Curiosity from Florida's Cape Canaveral, headed on a nine-month trip to the planet Mars. The $2.3 billion mission will send a capsule into the Martian sky in August of 2012. After decelerating in the atmosphere, a series of entry events will quickly take place, ending with a rocket-powered sky crane lowering the rover gently to the surface. Curiosity is a beast of a rover, weighing one ton, measuring ten feet long by seven feet tall (at the top of the mast), and powered by a plutonium-238 fueled electrical generator. The rover carries ten instruments, including several high-resolution cameras, and a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument called ChemCam that can vaporize tiny amounts of minerals and analyze their components. If all goes according to plan, Curiosity is scheduled for a stay on Mars of about 668 Martian sols, or nearly two Earth years, starting in Gale crater. Researchers hope to use the tools on Curiosity to study whether the area in Gale crater has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed. (Edit: The launch was successful, and Curiosity is due to land in August of 2012.)

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Ads are being blocked

For us to continue writing great stories, we need to display ads.

Un-block Learn more
Back

Whitelist

Please select the extension that is blocking ads.

Back

Please follow the steps below

Most Recent

  • Joe Raedle / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 7/23-7/29

    Sledding in Saudi Arabia, hyperrealist sculptures in Spain, a 12-meter-tall puppet in England, snowfall in South Africa, Pokemon Go in Syria, and much more.

  • Jim Young / Reuters

    Scenes From the Democratic National Convention

    This week, an estimated 50,000 people have gathered in Philadelphia for the four-day Democratic National Convention.

  • U.S. Navy / Maj. R.V. Spencer, UAF

    Remembering the Korean War

    Sixty-three years ago today, on July 27, 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, ceasing hostilities between North Korea and South Korea.

  • Noah Berger / AP

    Flying Around the World in a Solar Powered Plane

    Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg successfully landed the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, after flying around the world using only the power of the Sun.

Join the Discussion