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NASA's Curiosity  (Source: nasa.gov)
After launching Saturday, MSL is in good health and ready to continue its long journey to Mars

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft blasted off towards the Red Planet this past weekend, and a recent signal from the MSL indicated that everything was proceeding as planned.
 
On November 26, NASA’s MSL, also known as the Curiosity rover, was sent to Mars via the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. It took off from Space Launch Complex 41 on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
 
NASA rover Curiosity is a $2.5 billion nuclear-powered machine meant for the exploration of Mars in hopes of finding evidence of microscopic life. It is the size of a Mini Cooper, and about four times as heavy as the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers. Curiosity has a large robot arm, a weather station, a laser that can vaporize rocks at seven meters, a percussive drill, and 4.8kg of plutonium-238.
 
After separating from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, officials back on the ground received a signal from the rover that all was well and that Curiosity is on its way to Mars.
 
“Our spacecraft is in excellent health and it’s on its way to Mars,” said Pete Theisinger, MSL Project Manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
 
It will take about eight and a half months for Curiosity to travel 345 million miles to Mars. When it finally arrives in August 2012, it will be lowered onto the Martian surface in a protective aeroshell via a jet pack and tether system. Curiosity will then explore the Gale Crater for at least two years, which is an area that is rich in minerals and may provide clues as to whether Mars had or has life.
 
“Science fiction is now science fact,” said Doug McCuisition, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. “We’re flying to Mars. We’ll get it on the ground, and see what we find.”
 
Curiosity is NASA’s most sophisticated Mars rover, and the space agency expects the rover to put about 12 miles on its odometer during this venture. It is also the third space mission to launch since the retirement of the NASA space shuttle fleet.
 
“Mars really is the Bermuda Triangle of the solar system,” said Colleen Hartman, assistant associate administrator for science at NASA. “It’s the death planet, and the United States of America is the only nation in the world that has ever landed and driven robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, and now we’re set to do it again.”

Source: NASA



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RE: We need a new Space Race...
By kleinma on 11/28/2011 11:03:51 AM , Rating: 3
And long before that happens the Govt needs to actually put more money into NASA instead of cutting its budget. Otherwise we will be playing second string to countries like China who's space program is behind ours but rapidly catching up thanks to more funding and using much of US technology to do so.


RE: We need a new Space Race...
By Lord 666 on 11/28/2011 11:22:19 AM , Rating: 1
A different approach is to put space back into the thoughts of the general public.

To do so, why not bring about a new age; sex in space with the hope of conceiving and delivery of a child. To make it interesting, use adult movie stars or tabloid celebrities and charge pay per view. Think Jersey Shore, but in space.


RE: We need a new Space Race...
By Lord 666 on 11/28/2011 12:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
Cracking myself up on my own post. I can't get the sound bite of "Pigs in space" out of my head when thinking thinking of Snookie orbiting our planet.


RE: We need a new Space Race...
By quiksilvr on 11/28/2011 12:46:15 PM , Rating: 2
We need more money in space, but it should no longer be the government's responsibility. With Boeing, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Honeywell diving more and more into the aerospace field, we can finally lift the space burden onto the private sector instead of the public.

I believe the space program is more of a public-to-private program. In other words, its a program that is fully funded by the government initially, then businesses see viability for profits and compete with the government sector. Eventually, that program is picked up by the private sector and the government phases the program out. It's what's happening to the post office and what is eventually going to happen to space.


RE: We need a new Space Race...
By ender707 on 11/28/2011 1:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
Private sector companies are loyal to $$$, not the U.S.

I would rather have NASA improved than have our capabilities sold to private interests.

Not to mention that the government (or, you and I if you think about it) are still the ones paying for it.


RE: We need a new Space Race...
By ameriman on 12/1/2011 6:53:31 PM , Rating: 2
The Private sector feeds us, clothes us, houses us, provides us 100% of our goods/services/strength/prosperity...

Government provides only sloth, waste, corruption, incompetence... and Govt's GREED has us $15 trillion in debt.

NASA has spent $500 billion over 40 years without a single American more than 300 miles from earth...

And you want to hand NASA hundreds of $billions more, more decades more..

BS.. I haven't got another 40 years to wait on pork filed, political Govt BS...

Let's give Free Enterprise innovation, initiative, efficiency, can-do result orientation a chance..

The US manned space program is TOO IMPORTANT to be further entrusted to our political, greedy, wasteful, parasitic Federal Govt.


RE: We need a new Space Race...
By ameriman on 12/1/2011 7:00:04 PM , Rating: 2
US Taxpayers fund NASA at nearly $20 billion per year....

NASA blew 40 years, $220 billion on a dead-end boondoggle unaffordable/impractical Space Shuttle, $160+ billion on a useless pork Space Station, and $20 billion on it's failed/canceled Constellation Govt rocket...

Meanwhile, for less than $300 million, in less than 5 years private enterprise SpaceX developed 2 new boosters and a manned capsule...

You can either be for a rational, efficient, robust, sustainable US manned space program, or you can be for big govt NASA... but not both.

And you


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