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 ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

    America’s Tent Cities for the Homeless

    More than 500,000 people were homeless in the United States at the end of last year. Many who find themselves living on the streets find a level of community and security in homeless encampments.

  • AP

    A Wild Elephant Runs Loose in an Indian City

    A wild elephant wandered into the streets and alleys of Siliguri, India, on February 10, leaving behind a trail of startled residents, damaged structures, trampled cars, and smashed motorbikes.

  • Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty

    Carnival 2016 Around the World

    Recent images of carnivals around the world, including images from Spain, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Bolivia, and more.

  • Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty

    Newlyweds in the Ruins: A Syrian Wedding Photo Shoot

    In Homs, Syria, where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble by years of civil war, a Syrian wedding photographer thought of using the destruction of the city as a backdrop for pictures of newlywed couples to show that life is stronger than death.

Join the Discussion