The world’s biggest extraterrestrial explorer is on its way to Mars. NASA on Saturday launched the six-wheeled, one-armed robotic rover, nicknamed Curiosity.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity was launched November 26, 2011 at 10:02 EST. The MSL is scheduled to land on Mars at Gale Crater between August 6 and August 20, 2012. The super-size rover Curiosity will help assess Mars’ habitability. Curiosity’s primary mission objective is to determine whether Mars is or was an environment able to support life. The mission is not searching for life forms. It will also analyze samples scooped up from the soil and drilled from rocks.
Curiosity is five times as large, and carries more than ten times the mass of scientific instruments as the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit or Opportunity. The MSL rover Curiosity was launched by an Atlas V 541 rocket and is expected to operate for at least one Martian year (668 Martian sols/686 Earth days) as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover. A sol is the term used by planetary astronomers to define the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or “sol”, is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds on earth.
Mars Science Laboratory mission cost is about US$2.5 billion and is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. Mars exploration is a long-term effort that includes robotic exploration of Mars. The MSL project is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology for NASA.CLEAR SKIES?  Weather Data for Sunday, November 27th, 2011
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