Curiosity and the God of War

The Curiosity Rover has started its journey to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) is biggest robotic probe we have ever sent to Mars, the size of a car. It is 5 times larger and 10 times the mass of the two rovers Spirit and Opportunity that we landed on Mars in 2004. Each was due to run for 90 Mars days – Spirit finally broke in 2010 and Opportunity is still going having driven 21 miles so far. The Curiosity rover is nuclear powered – so it does not rely on solar panels – should be running for 668 Mars days (which are slightly shorter so this is 688 Earth days). It might run a lot longer though if it does as well as the previous two.

Here is the launch…

Landing something that size is a problem – before we wrapped probes in air bags and after a parachute slowed it down they bounced onto the ground.

This one needs a bit more care. It involves a heat shield, a parachute and a rocket powered hovering crane that lowers the rover the last few meters.

This is a computer animation of what the rest of the journey will be like.

It’ll hopefully land at Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012.

Mr G

Sources NASAKennedy YouTube channel, The Guardian, Wikipedia