Curiosity: The Next Mars Rover

The Curiosity Rover, getting ready for its journey to Mars. (click to enlarge)

The Nasa Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity, is on its way to Mars. Once it lands on the martian surface, Curiosity will examine the composition of the soil and rocks with its advanced scientific instruments. The main goal of the mission is to determine if the area where the rover lands has ever been able to support any kind of life. By analyzing the minerals in the rocks, scientists can determine if life could have been supported on the martian surface.

Curiosity was launched by an Atlas V 541 rocket on November 26, 2011 and will travel for about 8 months. The expected landing date is set for August 6, 2012. Nasa engineers studied all the possible landing sites on the surface of Mars. They chose the Gale Crater as the site where Curiosity will land. The Gale Crater is of special interest to scientists because it contains minerals that will reveal details about the history of the planet's surface. Curiosity will be able to determine if water has played a key role in the development of some of the features of the crater and of the martian surface. Curiosity will also look for organic molecules. These molecules might be able to support life.

The Curiosity Rover is much larger and more advanced than the previous two NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

The Gale Crater is the planned landing site for the rover Curiosity. (click to enlarge)

Curiosity Countdown