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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: Religious implications
By LRonaldHubbs on 11/29/2011 8:08:28 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The findings of life on other planets would disturb some religious people, but most would reject the idea, just as they reject other scientific views that challenge their faith-driven beliefs.

I disagree. Extremely religious folks may reject the idea, but moderates will accept it, just as they accept evolution and other scientific facts. The groups that generally have issues with science and actual provable facts are 1) the wingnuts who take the Bible literally and 2) people who are willfully ignorant and make no effort to understand science or even their own religion.

It's understandable that you'd think this, because the two groups that I've outlined above get the most attention (sadly). However, there are plenty of religious moderates out there that do value science.


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