NASA's MSL Curiosity rover begins its voyage to Mars - SpacePod 2011.11.28
NASA's most ambitious Martian rover ever is on its way to the red planet. This is your SpacePod for November 28th, 2011
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission lifted off the launch pad atop an Atlas V rocket on November 26th, 2011 at 15:02 UTC. This isn't just another rocket launch or rover being sent to the red planet. I could tell you how this is the largest lander we have ever sent to Mars and is nearly the size of a mini cooper. I could tell you that this is the heaviest rover that we have sent to our fourth planet coming in at over 2000 pounds. But instead I think William Pomerantz described this mission best at his LA Space Salon talk.
Needless to say the MSL mission with the Curiosity Rover will be a nail biter as the vehicle enters, descends and lands on the Martian Surface. To make things even more dramatic, Mars is far enough away that radio signals will take around 10 minutes to reach Earth. In fact, it is so far that by the time we start to get the radio signals telling us that the craft is about to begin its entry to the Martian atmosphere, the vehicle will actually already be on the ground, hopefully in one piece! If everything goes according to plan, then on August 5th, 2012 the Curiosity rover will begin roaming the gale crater on Mars.
We're not just sending Curiosity to Mars for fun. This giant rover has several missions it will attempt to accomplish in one martian year which is nearly 2 Earth Years. The goals are to determine if life could have ever been there, characterize the climate and geology of this alien world, and finally, help prepare for human exploration of this alien world.
NASA is known for its awesome Twitter accounts and the Curiosity Rover is no exception. If you would like to follow real-time update via the tweety bird, hit up the official account @MarsCuriosity or visit the web site via the far more complicated URL which is mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl... Or the bit.ly link at the bottom of your screen will bring you there too.
If you missed the Launch that's OK! There are plenty of additional rocket launches coming up, and here's a quick list of everything you can watch or tweet about.
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