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 ←/→.
Jump to Comments

Most Recent

  • Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

    A Year of War Completely Destroyed the Donetsk Airport

    In Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport has been reduced from a modern transportation hub to piles of scorched rubble in less than a year of warfare.

  • Wojciech Kruczynski, Poland, Shortlist, Panoramic, Open, 2015 Sony World Photography Awards

    The 2015 Sony World Photography Awards

    The Sony World Photography Awards, an annual competition hosted by the World Photography Organisation, just announced its shortlist of winners. This year's contest attracted 173,444 entries from 171 countries.

  • Natacha Pisarenko/AP

    Investigating the Mysteries of Antarctica

    Every year, thousands of scientists come to Antarctica for research. For a dozen days in January, in the middle of the chilly Antarctic summer, the Associated Press, including photographer Natacha Pisarenko, followed scientists from different fields on the frozen continent.

  • Vadim Ghirda/AP

    Watching a Shaky Cease-Fire in Ukraine

    Earlier this month, a cease-fire agreement was signed in Minsk, Belarus, after long talks between leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France. Heavy fighting ensued right before the deadline, and sporadic violence continues even now, more than a week later.

Join the Discussion