By Beatty Jamieson
The web has been going crazy about NASA’s most ambitious Mars mission since their launch of the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Mars rover. Now, after a successful landing, the web is again exploding with articles and questions about the mission. For anyone wanting to catch up, here are some factual tidbits and resources that will help.
Mars Mission Details
Launched: Nov. 26, 2011, and propelled by an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Distance Traveled: Mars Science Laboratory traveled 352 million miles (566.5 million kilometers) from Earth to Mars. It made the trip in 240 days and averaged about 18,000 mph (29,000 kph).
Landed: Aug. 6, 2012, in Gale Crater. Unlike previous missions that used an airbag system to cushion the landing, Curiosity touched down by utilizing a parachute to slow its descent and a sky crane to hover 8 meters above the martian surface and gently set the Curiosity rover on the ground. Scientists are hoping to collect material that has been washed down from Aeolis Mons, an 18,000 foot mountain located in the crater.
Curiosity Rover Details
Power Source: Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator – electric generator powered by radioactive decay.
Size & Weight: Curiosity stands 7.2 feet (2.2 meters) tall, 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) long, and 8.9 feet (2.7 meters) wide. It weighs 1,980 pounds (899 kilograms), 9 percent of its weight is scientific instruments totaling 180 pounds (80 kilograms).
Speed: Curiosity rover can travel on the surface of Mars at speeds of 300 feet (90 meters) an hour.