Published in the Sept-Oct 2012 issue of MyLIFE magazine
NASA’s most advanced rover, Curiosity, landed on the surface of Mars on August 5. Hailed as a “miracle of engineering,” the one-ton rover successfully completed the most complex landing ever attempted on the Red Planet.
“The Seven Minutes of Terror has turned into the Seven Minutes of Triumph,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld. “My immense joy in the success of this mission is matched only by overwhelming pride I feel for the women and men of the mission’s team.”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Curiosity would attempt to answer age-old questions about whether life once existed on Mars. It will also help determine whether the planet’s surface is capable of sustaining life in the future.
“This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” Bolden remarked. “President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”
Some interesting facts about Curiosity:
- NASA estimated the cost of the Curiosity mission at nearly $2.5 billion, which included the design, construction and launch of the rover.
- Curiosity, which is the size of an SUV, traveled at an average speed of approximately 8,000 mph to reach Mars. It was traveling at about 13,200 mph when it hit Mars’ atmosphere.
- It took 36 weeks for Curiosity to reach Mars. Of note, the rover touched down on the planet’s surface just one minute later than the estimate NASA made months earlier.
- Curiosity has 17 on-board cameras, some of which can take pictures of objects just 12.5 microns in size. That’s smaller than the width of a human hair.
- Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass that is 15 times larger than the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
- Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity.
- Curiosity comes equipped with a laser that can vaporize small objects from 30 feet away and analyze the vaporized dust. It could also be used to fight off curious little green men.