Curiosity, NASA’s newest and biggest space robot has taken off from Cape Canaveral leaving to embark on a 9-month journey to the red planet Mars. This has been a long awaited mission with many other Space Agency’s around the world also working overtime to get the space program’s working.
Host to microbial life
The mission will be for Curiosity to check whether or not Mars could have ever played host to microbial life. This interest in whether the planet has any life stems from other research which has hinted at the existence of water below the earths’ surface.
Curiosity was sent soaring into space being powered by two Atlas 5 rockets, with the red planet its stop. It will be part of a 354-million-mile journey which is estimated to take eight and a half months. The team from NASA where excited with how well the launch went, and weather conditions were spot on as the sun was out.
Researchers said that the job Curiosity is going to the Red Planet to carry should allow them to assist in rationalizing understanding of Mars, and if successful it will open the way for manned journeys to the planet and also effort to look for extra-terrestrial life.
If the rover makes the journey successfully NASA would have again got a head start on their space competition, and many are excited as to what they will discover on a planet not really visited. Curiosity was supposed to launch in 2009 but it was not ready in time, with scientists sending it on a mission known as Mar Science Laboratory, MSL.
The other problem the team had was the window for launching to Mars only comes around once in two years, so by missing the one in 2009 they had no choice but to launch this year. The extra two years helped a 56% reduction in costs, and the mission two this date has cost $2.5 billion.
Curiosity is no small rover, it weighs 1 ton is five times larger than either of the rovers sent in the last two missions to Mars, back in 2004 two golf cart sized rovers were sent to look for water activity.
Those previous two machines were called Spirit and Opportunity and they carried five science instruments, Curiosity will be holding ten. This will include a laser to zapp rocks and equipment specifically created to identify any organic compounds.