NASA launching complex rover lab to Mars slated for Saturday morning on an Atlas 5 rocket

November 25, 2011


NASA’s massive Curiosity Rover nears launch toward Mars

By John Matson
Scientific American

Don’t be fooled by the innocuous name—Curiosity, NASA’s new Mars rover, is a brute.

Curiosity, which is slated to launch Saturday morning on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, is the biggest planetary rover ever built. The six-wheel-drive robot is three meters long—longer than a Smart ForTwo mini car—and its headlike mast rises 2.1 meters (6.8 feet) above the ground. With a suite of 10 science instruments, Curiosity weighs in at nearly 900 kilograms (1,984.16 lbs), more than NASA’s last three Mars rovers combined.

To put its size in perspective, consider that Curiosity is scheduled to touch down in August 2012, just over 15 years after NASA’s first Mars rover began exploring the Red Planet. That rover, Sojourner, stood about 30 centimeters high (11.8 inches). Curiosity is designed to roll over obstacles twice that tall.

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