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

  • Tommy Pedersen / TT News Agency / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 8/12–8/18

    The removal of Confederate statues in Baltimore, big waves in Brazil,  the World Jousting Championships in Australia, daily exercise at a pig farm in China, and much more.

  • George Frey / Getty

    Inside the Dugway Proving Ground

    George Frey, Getty images photographer, recently had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, a sprawling top-secret military facility in the Utah desert.

  • Tauseef Mustafa / AFP / Getty

    Photos: One Week in India

    India celebrated its 70th Independence Day on August 15, during a busy week across the nation.

  • Scott Olson / Getty

    Vigils, Marches, and Memorials After Charlottesville

    In squares and streets across the United States, vigils and marches were held this weekend in response to the hatred and violence on display during a rally in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Join the Discussion