Curiosity Just Days Away From Mars

More than eight months ago, on November 26, 2011, NASA launched its newest rover named Curiosity from Florida's Cape Canaveral, headed to the planet Mars. Now, after traveling hundreds of millions of kilometers, the landing is scheduled to take place at 1:31 am Eastern Time on Monday, August 6 (10:31 pm August 5, Pacific Time). The capsule containing the rover will experience "seven minutes of terror", decelerating through the Martian atmosphere, as a series of entry events 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. (Most of these photos were featured in a November, 2011 entry, when Curiosity was launched).

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

Most Recent

  • Ognen Teofilovski / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 6/18-6/24

    A glass slide 1,000 feet above the ground in Los Angeles, an emu is helped away from a California wildfire, a selfie in the 125 degrees Fahrenheit heat of Palm Springs, a Hello Kitty face grown on a melon in Japan, and much more.

  • Roger Steffens / Benrubi Gallery

    A Family Album on Acid

    Roger Steffens’ photographs of his wife, son, and daughter during the Electric Kool-Aid era

  • Sergio Perez / Reuters

    A Tripped Syrian Refugee Finds a Home in Spain

    Last September, photos of a Syrian refugee being tripped by a Hungarian camerawoman as he tried to flee border police went viral. His story caught the attention of a soccer training school near Madrid that helped him find work and a new home.

  • Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

    Photos of Southern California's Wildfires

    A punishing heat wave across the American Southwest has spawned a number of early season wildfires in Southern California, including the Sherpa Fire, which has burned nearly 8,000 acres in less than a week.

Join the Discussion