Curiosity In Flight

Mars Science Laboratory Rollout (201111250001HQ)

Image by nasa hq photo via Flickr

This morning the Mars Science Laboratory, aka. Curiosity Rover or MSL, successfully launched for Mars aboard an Atlas 5 rocket.  The shot went off on time without delays and the Atlas V provided a great show for all, as usual.  It’s a great rocket.  Aside from some data issues during the Centaur Rocket burn phase, it didn’t look like they had any problems at all.

For now, it appears that the $2.5 Billion MSL is the last rover that NASA plans to send to Mars.  They plan on another orbiter and then that’s it.  I suppose this is to focus funding on the SLS to send up a manned mission, but what if that falls through? Maybe the next Presidential administration will change that…different discussion I know.

It looks like NASA is pretty good at sending stuff to Mars, but it’s too bad about Russia‘s Phobos/Grunt.  It would have been great to get a sample back from Phobos.

Bigger than my wife’s car, this is by far the largest and best equipped rover that Earth has ever sent to Mars to date.  With a Mast CAM for taking wide-angle pictures and what they call a Hand Lens Imager for closeups.  It also has a full suite of geekier science related stuff intent on studying the Mars environment and determining if the planet ever had an ecosystem that could support life as we know it.  It carries a nuclear decay power source the size of a trash can to power it all and keep the Rover warm during the Martian winter.  Click the link to the wiki above for details on all that.

It still has a long journey to travel, due at Mars in August of next year.  You can be sure I’ll pay attention and write about any developments.

Anyway, here is a video of the launch for those who missed it.  This video was posted to YouTube less than an hour after launch by Russia Today.

This great video simulation shows what Curiosity’s landing on Mars is supposed to look like when it arrives at Gale Crater next year.

Fun photo-op video comparing the size of Curiosity with that of previous rovers, if you can get past the cheesy music.

So what do you think–Worth it or not?  Feel free to comment.

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~ by Bill Housley on November 26, 2011.

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