NASA’s Next Mars Rover to Launch in 15 Days
The Mars Science Laboratory, the largest and most complex machine that has ever landed on another planet, is on target to launch on Nov. 25 at 7:25 a.m. PST.
“MSL has been assembled, tested, encapsulated, placed atop an ATLAS rocket and is ready to go,” said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Program, during a briefing at NASA headquarters on Nov. 10.
The rover, nicknamed Curiosity, weighs in at nearly 1 ton and is a little bigger than a Mini Cooper. The probe is expected to survey the Martian landscape with HD cameras, examine the chemical surface composition within 20 feet of the rover, monitor the planet’s weather, and search for signs of habitability and life, past or present.
Curiosity also has a six-foot arm that can reach down to place sensors on Martian rocks to investigate their chemical makeup. It will be able to drill inside rocks and deliver samples back to a suite of laboratory instruments carried inside the rover, something never done before in Mars.
“This is a Mars scientists’ dream machine,” said Ashwin Vasavada, MSL deputy project scientist, at the briefing.