Yesterday, while we were out shopping NASA launched from Cape Canaveral the “biggest and baddest robot ever to land on another planet: an SUV-sized rover nicknamed “Curiosity” that comes equipped with a “rock-zapping” laser.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel:
[...] Curiosity is a rover on steroids.
Ten feet long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall at the top of its mast, the nuclear-powered vehicle is equipped with six-wheel drive that allows it to run over obstacles as tall as 2 feet. And Curiosity sports a top-mounted laser that can zap rocks from 23 feet away to see what chemicals pop from the spark.
“It’s not your father’s rover,” said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars program. “It’s truly … the largest and most complex piece of equipment ever placed on the surface of another planet.”
During its two-year mission, Curiosity will roam the Martian surface — at one-tenth of a mile per hour — looking for signs that Mars ever could have supported microbial life. Formally named the Mars Science Laboratory, its 10 packages of instruments will enable it to analyze rocks and dirt, looking especially for what scientists call “organic compounds.”
These carbon-based compounds, such as methane, are essential to life as we know it, and their discovery would be a major find.
From NASA Missions:
Oblique View of Gale Crater, Mars where the rover Curiosity of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission will land in August 2012, contains a mountain rising from the crater floor. This oblique view of Gale Crater, looking toward the southeast, is an artist’s impression using two-fold vertical exaggeration to emphasize the area’s topography. Curiosity’s landing site is on the crater floor northeast of the mountain. The crater’s diameter is 96 miles (154 kilometers).
Groovy animation of the rover Martian atmosphere entry, landing & mission
An overview of the mission:
Thank you, Michael Fisher