Saturday, November 26, 2011
Curiosity, the world’s largest extraterrestrial explorer, successfully departed earth this morning for Mars. Curiosity will travel a distance of 354 million miles arriving on the red planet in approximately 8 1/2 months or next August.
Curiosity, about the size of a car, is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments designed to sample Martian soil and rocks, analyzing them right on the spot. There is a drill as well as a stone-zapping laser machine.
Curiosity is too heavy to use air bags to land like its smaller predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity. Instead, Curiosity will be lowered onto Mars via a jet pack and tether system similar to the sky cranes used to lower heavy equipment into remote areas on Earth.