Mars Curiosity Rover

November 26, 2011 by staff 

Mars Curiosity Rover, The world’s biggest extra-terrestrial explorer, NASA’s Curiosity rover, rocketed toward Mars on Saturday on a search for evidence that the red planet might once have been home to itsy-bitsy life.

It will take eight-and-a-half months for Curiosity to reach Mars following a journey of 354 million miles.

An unmanned Atlas V rocket hoisted the rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into a cloudy late morning sky. A Mars frenzy gripped the launch site, with more than 13,000 guests jamming the space centre for NASA’s first launch to Earth’s next-door neighbor in four years, and the first send-off of a Martian rover in eight years.

NASA astrobiologist Pan Conrad, whose carbon compound-seeking instrument is on the rover, had a shirt custom made for the occasion. Her bright blue, short-sleeve blouse was emblazoned with rockets, planets and the words, “Next stop Mars!”

Conrad jumped, cheered and snapped pictures as the rocket blasted off a few miles away. So did Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist in charge of Curiosity’s rock-zapping laser machine, called ChemCam.

Wiens shouted “Go, Go, Go!” as the rocket soared. “It was beautiful,” he later observed, just as NASA declared the launch a full success.

The 1-ton Curiosity – as large as a car – is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, andanlyze them right on the spot. There’s a drill as well as the laser-zapping device.

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