NASA’s New Mars Mission

Recent news has reported that NASA, along with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, has chosen the destination for the most recent Mars rover. The rover is scheduled to land on a crater called “Gale.” Gale Crater extends 96 miles and a high rising mountain. The size of the crater is compared as being about the same as the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to Fox News. Furthermore, a rover is a vehicle used for space exploration that is designed to maneuver across the surface of a planet or other astronomical bodies. Some rovers are used to take members of a crew and others are robot-looking vehicles that function partially or fully autonomously. Mars’s rover looks like it is in the form of a robot. This new rover is called The Mars Science Laboratory, or its nickname, Curiosity, and is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November 2011 and land on Mars next year (August 2012.) The new rover interestingly named, Curiosity, is twice as long as and five times heavier than previous Mars rovers. It is more or less the size of a Mini Cooper, according to Fox News. It is basically like a science laboratory on wheels because the rover will be carrying the tools needed to do research. NASA’s goal is to have the rover look for circumstances that could uphold microscopic life and any evidence of previous life on Mars.

Curiosity’s body has been cleverly designed to perform specific tasks. It has ten science instruments, including two that are for taking and analyzing samples of powdered rock that are collected by the rover’s robotic arms. Curiosity will be provided with heat and electric power from a radioscopic power source. Furthermore, although it won’t be able to take vivid 3-D pictures, Curiosity will be able to capture everything it sees through digital colored cameras that are in place of its eyes. These cameras are much more powerful than the ones used on previous rovers.

Moreover, unlike previous methods used to deliver the rover to Mars, NASA decided to deliver the new craft by having a rocket-powered sky crane suspending the craft on tethers, which will then lower the rover directly to the planet’s surface. Also, the launch of this new rover is going much higher than the expected budget, according to NASA’s auditors. Originally, it was suppose to take off in 2009, yet technical problems and budget issues got in the way. The cost of this mission has risen from $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion. If they were to delay the launch once more, it would cost them at least another $570 million. As of now, Curiosity and other spacecrafts are taking final tests until the launch date.

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