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

  • Geoff Robins / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Snowy Sahara, Dancing Devils, Cryptocurrency J-Pop

    The Singapore Zoo shows off its babies, ice blankets in the U.S., fog drifts in the U.K., Saudi Arabia opens its first automotive showroom solely for women, and much more.

  • Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty

    Photos of California's Deadly Mudslides

    Hillsides scorched by wildfires last month unleashed mudslides under heavy rainfall north of Los Angeles on Tuesday.

  • Bettmann / Getty

    50 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1968

    A half-century ago, much of the world appeared to be in a state of crisis, with protests around the world, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. But there was some progress to be found as well.

  • Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

    The 2018 Procession of the Black Nazarene

    Earlier today, hundreds of thousands of Catholic devotees in Manila gathered together and climbed over each other to touch a centuries-old icon of Jesus Christ.

Join the Discussion