NASA launched the new ROVER ‘Curiosity’ successfully, as it heads on the long journey to the Red Planet. The journey will take eight and a half months, traveling a staggering 354 million miles.
The robot craft is part of a huge $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission and Pete Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said “We are in cruise mode, Our spacecraft is in excellent health, and it’s on its way to Mars.” If you are interested you can watch a video on the launch over here.
The craft is set to analyse the planet, ascertaining if it could, or could ever have supported life. It has taken since 2003 for this launch to be realised, with the team failing to meet the original deadline in 2009. The extra two years of preparation and development has meant that the project cost increased by 56 percent.
The launch however has been a great success and Theisinger said it was a great day. However, the launch is only part of a journey filled with potential disasters – over a two year period. He added “We all recognize that this is the prologue to the mission — necessary, but not sufficient. We all have our work cut out for us in the next eight and a half months.”
Curiosity should touch down in August next year, with scientists busy every step of the way, correcting the flight path and preparing engineering tests. They have to stage ’10 separate operational readiness tests’ over the next eight and a half months, preparing for any problems that can occur during the flight.
John Grotzinger, spoke to Space.com saying “You’re basically just kicking the tires and trying to shake it all out”. The craft will land at the 100 mile wide Gale Crater. A mountain of sediment rises 3 miles into the air at this location, a prime investigation point for Curiosity.
The landing phase of the journey is one of the most nervewrecking stages of the journey as Curiosity is lowered by cables to the surface, by a rocket powered sky crane. It has proven troublesome and time consuming but the team are confident it will work, they are continuing to analyse the landing over the next 8 months.
Kitguru says: We hope it is a success, the findings could be groundbreaking.