The big one we have all been waiting for is on it’s way. The Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, lifted off yesterday from Florida and began it’s 8 and half month journey to the red planet. Curiosity carries with it the hopes and dreams of, not just a lot of scientists and NASA engineers, but also a lot of average Americans who can only dream of this trip and what can be discovered there.
Carried into space on an Atlas 5 rocket, Curiosity, a rover the size of a car, will touch down in the Gale Crater and begin it’s systematic experiments in search of the building blocks of life on Mars. Gale Crater is described by Universe Today as “one of the most scientifically interesting locations on the Red Planet because it exhibits exposures of clay minerals that formed in the presence of neutral liquid water that could be conducive to the genesis of life.”
The launch yesterday went off without a hitch and the rover is now on it’s way to the red planet. Before you get too excited, Curiosity won’t discover life (if any), but only find if the necessary conditions are present. Finding actual life will have to wait for the next mission. As with all things this complicated, expensive, and time-consuming the scale of time is much greater than we all would like it to be.
You can watch a video of yesterday’s launch below.