Monday, August 6, 2012

NASA Takes Gold in the 567 Billion Meter Dash!

The first image taken by the NASA Curiosity rover after
the dust covers were removed from the cameras.

I watched in amazement last night as NASA pulled off a perfect landing to put Curiosity—the most complex rover ever built—on the Martian surface. Congratulations to all the hard-working men and women at NASA/JPL for not creating a 2.5 billion dollar crater instead! If they were terrified during those seven minutes from when Curiosity entered the Martian atmosphere travelling 20,000 kph until touchdown, I sure could not tell. Nothing but professionalism and ear to ear grins and high fives once it had landed. 
   Curiosity weighs in at 900 kg and is three meters long, larger than some small cars. It is equipped with 80 kg of instrumentation, including a variety of cameras and a laser that is powerful enough to vaporize rock. These are the most-advanced instruments ever used on the Martian surface. Curiosity will be able to determine mineral and soil composition, atmospheric processes, detect chemical biosignatures and characterize the surface radiation on Mars.
   The Mars Science Laboratory’s goals for this mission are to search Mars for signs of life, past or present, study the climate and geology of Mars, and plan for a future manned mission to Mars. The mission is scheduled to last for about two years, but if conditions are favorable, the rover could be in operation for much longer.
   In the weeks and months to come I will be writing more about this incredible mission and its discoveries. In the meantime, to celebrate NASA/JPL’s successfully landing, this week’s quiz is about Mars. See how much you know about the Red Planet.

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