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The Curiosity Rover - Mars Landing and Exploration

Updated on November 20, 2012

Curiosity Lands on Mars!

On August 6th, 2012 the Mars rover Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars. It was a historic event in our history and something worth celebrating! The Mars Science Laboratory aims to answer some of our basic questions about Mars, especially as they relate to water and life on the surface of the planet. Who knows what we will find?

I created this lens to give some information about the landing and rover. I also want to track the latest news about Curiosity that I find and discuss some of the issues surrounding Mars exploration.I want to hear your thoughts and maybe even host some civil debate and discussion! This topic excites me and I'm glad you visited!

Did Curiosity find life on Mars?

NASA and Curiosity have found something very significant on Mars. What? We're not sure yet but NASA is promising that it is "history-book" worthy and is waiting to double-check the results before releasing them. I'll be glued to this news and I hope you are as well!

About Curiosity

These are some quick facts about Curiosity.

  • The rover is 3 meters long and 2.1 meters tall - about the size of an average-sized car.
  • It weighs about 2000 pounds - the entry system as a whole weighed almost 8,500 pounds.
  • The science equipment on board weighs 165 pounds and includes spectrometers, cameras, sample analysis and radiation detectors.
  • Curiosity is powered by lithium-ion batteries and a radioisotope thermoelectric generator - in other words, a nuclear engine!

What is Curiosity's Mission?

According to Nasa's official press release, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is there to study the overall habitability of Mars. Quoted directly from the press release, these are the four primary objectives.

  • Assess the biological potential of at least one target environment by determining the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds, searching for the chemical building blocks of life and identifying features that may record the actions of biologically relevant processes.
  • Characterize the geology of the rover’s field site at all appropriate spatial scales by investigating the chemical, isotopic and mineralogical composition of surface and near-surface materials and interpreting the processes that have formed rocks and soils.
  • Investigate planetary processes of relevance to past habitability (including the role of water) by assessing the long-time-scale atmospheric evolution and determining the present state, distribution and cycling of water and carbon dioxide.
  • Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons.

Curiosity in the News

I keep an eye out for news about the rover. These are some of the articles that caught my attention!

You probably didn't know:

There's no odometer on Curiosity. Instead, the tire track is uneven so scientists can look back and calculate how far the rover has gone. The tracks Curiosity leaves spell out JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in morse code. Even scientists can have some fun!

Picture of the Rover Tracks

Rover Tracks on Mars
Rover Tracks on Mars

Can you see the morse code? I don't know enough what I'm looking for but it should be there!

Shuttles vs. Rovers

Shuttles vs. Probes
Shuttles vs. Probes

Recently the United States and NASA made the decision to focus on scientific exploration missions like the rovers on Mars, shuttering the shuttle program. What do you think about that choice?

How do you feel about the shuttle program closing?

See results

About the Journey

How did Curiosity get there? It wasn't easy - or quick! But it was fast.

Curiosity left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 26th, 2011. At the time it was 127 million miles away from Mars. In order to reach Mars Curiosity had to travel over 350 million miles! That's so far it takes the signal from the rover 13.8 minutes to reach back to Earth. It landed near the base of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater.

Now that it is safely on Mars, the primary mission for Curiosity will last for one Martian year, which is 98 Earth weeks. Secondary missions could continue for years after that. While on the surface the rover will travel about 660 feet a day and work in temperatures ranging from -130 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. I look forward to following the mission and seeing the pictures that come back!

About the Landing - Infographic from JPL

Landing Infographic
Landing Infographic

The First Image from Curiosity

This is the first picture sent back from Mars by Curiosity. It was taken by one of the lower-resolution side cameras and mainly meant to check that the rover had landed correctly and was functioning properly. Eventually, full color photographs in higher resolution will be sent back. Still, it is amazing to me that we are able to see a picture of something over 350 million miles away!

News Coverage of the Landing

This is coverage from ABC News showing animation of the landing. My favorite part is the NASA engineers going crazy! You can tell what a tense and exciting moment it was for them!

How big of a moment was this?

Curiosity's landing was a big moment in history. How big was it?

How important was the August 6th, 2012 landing of Curiosity?

Rover Community
Rover Community

A Bit of Mars Humor

This report from the Onion highlights some of Curiosity's early discoveries about Mars including the extremely slow Internet access and all the dirt. It's worth a click if you like the Onion!

Pictures from Curiosity

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the first color photo from Curiosity. It appears fuzzy because of dust on the camera lens but it is exciting to get a view. You can tell why it is called the Red Planet! The rover is in a crater right now and slowly moving towards the edges tThis is a pretty phenomenal picture in my mind - it's Curiosity heading to the surface of Mars. You can actually see the parachute deployed!Changing the tires on Curiosity while it was on Earth. Just like your car, right?Truly amazing picture from the surface of Mars! I actually thought it was CGI first but it is real. Each of those little rocks is on the surface of another planet - wow!This was taken on August 7th, 2012 and is the first "high-def" image from the Rover. It's from the hazard camera so the quality of pictures to come should be greatly improved. Still, it's another planet! Wow!A huge picture that is gorgeous in black and white. Would make a great wallpaper for your desktop!
This is the first color photo from Curiosity. It appears fuzzy because of dust on the camera lens but it is exciting to get a view. You can tell why it is called the Red Planet! The rover is in a crater right now and slowly moving towards the edges t
This is the first color photo from Curiosity. It appears fuzzy because of dust on the camera lens but it is exciting to get a view. You can tell why it is called the Red Planet! The rover is in a crater right now and slowly moving towards the edges t
This is a pretty phenomenal picture in my mind - it's Curiosity heading to the surface of Mars. You can actually see the parachute deployed!
This is a pretty phenomenal picture in my mind - it's Curiosity heading to the surface of Mars. You can actually see the parachute deployed!
Changing the tires on Curiosity while it was on Earth. Just like your car, right?
Changing the tires on Curiosity while it was on Earth. Just like your car, right?
Truly amazing picture from the surface of Mars! I actually thought it was CGI first but it is real. Each of those little rocks is on the surface of another planet - wow!
Truly amazing picture from the surface of Mars! I actually thought it was CGI first but it is real. Each of those little rocks is on the surface of another planet - wow!
This was taken on August 7th, 2012 and is the first "high-def" image from the Rover. It's from the hazard camera so the quality of pictures to come should be greatly improved. Still, it's another planet! Wow!
This was taken on August 7th, 2012 and is the first "high-def" image from the Rover. It's from the hazard camera so the quality of pictures to come should be greatly improved. Still, it's another planet! Wow!
A huge picture that is gorgeous in black and white. Would make a great wallpaper for your desktop!
A huge picture that is gorgeous in black and white. Would make a great wallpaper for your desktop!
Hypothetical Base on Mars
Hypothetical Base on Mars

Setting Foot on Mars

Humans have walked on the moon. Should Mars be the next place we go? Could it be?

The idea of visiting Mars and even setting up a base there has been a popular idea in science fiction for as long as people have been thinking about travelling to other planets. This picture comes from a series of NASA images and thoughts on a hypothetical Mars base, including using the natural resources on Mars to decrease the reliance on expensive supply trips from Earth.

It's at least feasible for us to visit and even live on Mars sometime in my lifetime. Is it worth the substantial cost and risk?

Photo courtesy: nasaimages.org

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

This book is part of what inspired me to think about exploring and colonizing Mars. The science blends really well with the fiction to make a great read. I highly recommend it!

Should humans visit Mars?

Is the cost and risk worth a manned mission to Mars?

Photo Credit

Photos used are from nasaimages.org and are in the public domain.

Thanks for visiting - let me know what you want to see added or changed. I appreciate everyone joining the discussion!

Let me know what you think

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    • koolclipz profile image

      koolclipz 

      5 years ago

      I really liked your page! Fascinated by space exploration as well!

    • AishwaryaTiwari1 profile image

      AishwaryaTiwari1 

      5 years ago

      Liked this Lens.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 

      5 years ago

      Fantastic Lens, so very timely and informative; your students are lucky to have such a cool teacher..

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