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Mars rover Curiosity's shadow in Gale Crater  (Source: NASA Twitter)
The $2.5 billion project was made in hopes of discovering that the Red Planet once harbored materials needed for life

NASA celebrated a major victory early Monday morning as its Mars rover Curiosity made a successful landing on the Red Planet. 
 
NASA rover Curiosity is a one-ton, nuclear-powered, six-wheeled, Mini Cooper-sized machine that was originally called the Mars Science Laboratory -- because that's exactly what it is. It was made to explore Martian territory for a two-year period in hopes of discovering that the planet once harbored materials needed for life. The project cost $2.5 billion.
 
Curiosity launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011. It has made its way through space for eight months before touching down on Mars. It covered about 352 million miles during that eight-month period.
 
This morning's landing was not an easy one. Many doubted that NASA could pull off such a stunt because the actual maneuver consisted of a giant parachute and a rocket pack lowering the huge laboratory onto a specific area, and errors were not allowed if NASA engineers wanted Curiosity to stay intact. Also, about 70 percent of missions to Mars have ended in failure, so landing the largest vehicle on the planet seemed impossible.
 
"It's like us launching something from Kennedy Space Center and having it land in the Rose Bowl, on the 50-yard-line, on a frisbee," said Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator. 
 
The landing was the most sophisticated and largest of its kind. Over a period of seven minutes, which NASA referred to as "seven minutes of terror," a series of maneuvers took place to ensure that Curiosity landed safely. Seventy-nine pyrotechnic detonations were required for the release of exterior ballast weights, deploying the parachute, removal from the heat shield, etc. If any of these were to fail, the mission would've failed. 
 
However, after entering Martian atmosphere at a speed of over 13,000 MPH, then hitting Martian soil, Earth received radio signals for confirmation of its landing after a bit of a delay. It landed at 1:32 a.m. EDT in the exact area that it was supposed to reach -- the Gale Crater.
 
At that point, NASA engineers celebrated and high-fived over the successful landing. 
 
"There are many out in the community that say NASA has lost its way, that we don't know how to explore, that we've lost our moxie," said John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "I want you to look around tonight. All those folks with the blue shirts, and think about what we've achieved. I think it's fair to say that NASA knows how to explore. We've been exploring, and we're on Mars." 
 
The project may have cost $900 million over budget, but it turned out to be a great milestone for American space travel. NASA definitely needed this boost after retiring its space shuttle fleet last year, which consisted of the Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis spacecrafts. American astronauts were then left to depend on Russia to reach the International Space Station (ISS), but private rocket company SpaceX stepped in to save the day shortly thereafter. SpaceX, which is owned by Elon Musk, successfully launched its unmanned Dragon capsule to the ISS in May. 
 
Curiosity will now undergo a series of tests before searching for signs of life (or the ingredients for life) on the Red Planet for two years. It will use instruments like 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. 

Sources: NASA, USA Today, CNN



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Really Worth $2.5B
By WalksTheWalk on 8/6/2012 2:48:17 PM , Rating: -1
While I love science as much, or more, than the next person I can't help but think there's a more practical way to spend $2.5B dollars. I hope I'm proven wrong and this rover finds incredible things to offset those dollars, but it seems like an incredible waste of resources, along with the other Mars rovers.

Let the down rating commence...




RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Silverel on 8/6/2012 4:05:27 PM , Rating: 2
While I love war as much, or more, than the next person I can't help but think there's a more practical way to spend $3.4T dollars. I hope I'm proven wrong and this war finds incredible things to offset those dollars, but it seems like an incredible waste of resources, along with the other Middle East wars.

FTFY


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By WalksTheWalk on 8/6/2012 4:23:13 PM , Rating: 2
Except I've never indicated I want war. War should be the last thing the US engages in since there is no winning; only varying degrees of loss.

Troll away Silverel...


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Samus on 8/6/2012 5:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
I get what both of you are saying...but money ain't nothing but a thing. We need to push technology like this because in 50 years, who knows, there might be a global disaster and we'll depend on moments like this that gave us an out.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Jeremy87 on 8/6/2012 6:06:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Except I've never indicated I want war.

No, but NASA's cost is so incredibly unbelievably tiny in comparison to other things (like war).
It's mindblowing how much those $2.5B can give us, and I doubt anyone but NASA can do so much with so little, and this is the place where you would want to start shaving off costs?


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Samus on 8/7/2012 2:37:46 AM , Rating: 2
Totally. I think people take a lot of stuff developed through the space program for granted:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/1752963/...

and over 6,300 other patents...ALL FAIR USE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By WalksTheWalk on 8/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Florinator on 8/6/2012 4:35:26 PM , Rating: 4
Didn't the war in Iraq cost like $3 billion a month at its height? I'd rather send my tax money to Mars than blow shit up in the desert. Or kill innocent people at wedding parties in Afganistan or wherever...

NASA is something I can be proud of, the wars... not so much.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By StevoLincolnite on 8/6/2012 5:21:03 PM , Rating: 3
And yet, it's because of the space program that has given the USA it's technological edge in the past.

If the Americans are so worried about the cost of NASA, why not pull the troops you have stationed all around the world which are costing American lives and Billions of dollars?

You still have troops in over 130 countries across the planet with over 600 bases, imagine how much money you would save if you pulled them back and increased your defense at home which would also save American lives as well as improve defense?

NASA in comparison isn't that costly, heck you are working with Australia to communicate with the rover so it's not like you are taking all the burden upon yourselves in that regard.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Bad-Karma on 8/6/2012 9:40:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You still have troops in over 130 countries across the planet with over 600 bases, imagine how much money you would save if you pulled them back and increased your defense at home which would also save American lives as well as improve defense?


We're there because left to your own devices your countries can't seem to stay out of initiating world wide conflicts, that we then have to go in and clean up at a far more considerable cost to lives and money.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By StevoLincolnite on 8/7/2012 6:55:03 AM , Rating: 2
And yet, my country has never been invaded or even initiated a war, we always followed and assisted the Yanks or the British Empire, yet you still seem to see a need to station troops on our soil for various reasons.

If you want a look at warmongering nations... I can list a few, the USA would be near the top wouldn't it?


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Bad-Karma on 8/7/2012 4:57:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
yet you still seem to see a need to station troops on our soil for various reasons.


Strange, but there are several other countries that have considerable large forces in our country. Usually its the Five-Eyes group, but I've worked with Germans, Brits, Kiwis, Israelis, Canadians, European, Japan, S. Korean, and a whole host of middle eastern, African, Asian and South American countries. Well over a 50 countries come up to train with our Red Flag exercises. Many of there units come here for training cycles but several have more permanent locals.

There are many reciprocity agreements in place that if we have a base in another country then they have the right to establish one in ours. However, most can not afford such a luxury so we accommodate them at our own bases.

quote:
If you want a look at warmongering nations... I can list a few, the USA would be near the top wouldn't it?


The US and our Allies wind up putting out lots of smaller fires so that we all don't have to deal with them when they get out of control and turn into much bigger conflagrations. So "warmongering" is determined by how you look at it through your political mindset.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Paj on 8/7/2012 7:25:44 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, its so you can influence foreign policy to align with US interests, like the war on drugs and fossil fuels.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Reclaimer77 on 8/7/2012 10:41:56 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know why everyone instantly goes into military spending. All of our money isn't going into the military, not even close.

But I guess entitlement spending or healthcare (things the Constitution did not mandate, unlike the military) is more popular than our military for whatever reason, so they become the scapegoat for all our woes.

http://www.usfederalbudget.us/budget_pie_gs.php


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Jeffk464 on 8/7/2012 12:53:19 AM , Rating: 1
You know this is a totally positive achievement. Why do you guys insist on turning such a positive event into cheesy political arguments?


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By jeffkro on 8/7/2012 2:16:17 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm, somebody is just marking down everything I post.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Jeremy87 on 8/6/2012 6:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
So if NASA is a waste of money, then by extension all their inventions have been a waste of money.
For example your computer or talking to your cell phone, scratch-resistant eyeglasses, your smoke detector, the foam in your helmet, or other things that help keep roads from getting slippery or prolong the life of the Statue of Liberty.
Do a quick Google search for what they have invented and how they are used today in people's everyday lives.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By shmmy on 8/6/2012 7:53:05 PM , Rating: 3
No... He said that the one project may be a was a waste of money. Not the past 50 years of NASA as whole.

Do a quick google search on how to read :P


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By kyp275 on 8/7/2012 2:02:24 AM , Rating: 2
The only thing that is a waste of money around here is the money spent on public education for WalksTheWalk.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By jeffkro on 8/7/2012 2:18:59 AM , Rating: 2
He sounds home schooled


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By WalksTheWalk on 8/7/2012 9:12:38 AM , Rating: 2
So one person got what I was saying. I was not saying NASA was a waste in total, but that this project was a waste of resources. Please show me how this project is justified spending that much money. What is the return for it? This entire project is for political theater (US and NASA PR) and has little real world value.

Having said that I will say that NASA does waste a large amount of resources. They have little accountability and they basically set their own direction with a little input from the Federal Government. I know they are a sacred cow, funding wise, to tech people but that's no different than ethanol being a sacred cow for the agriculture crowd.

This is the problem; too many people not willing to limit the government sponsored programs THEY are interested in.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Reclaimer77 on 8/7/2012 10:19:13 AM , Rating: 2
For every dollar we spent on the Apollo program, 13 went back into the US economy from all the things we learned and other advances. To say this is a "waste" of money is idiotic. And that's coming from someone who's accused of wanting ZERO Government spending.

quote:
Having said that I will say that NASA does waste a large amount of resources. They have little accountability and they basically set their own direction with a little input from the Federal Government.


This is patently false, so whatever. You're entitled to an opinion, but you aren't entitled to lying. NASA is not even close to being outside the direction of Congress and the Government.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By WalksTheWalk on 8/7/2012 11:37:45 AM , Rating: 2
Just look at who the members of NASA's Planning Group are. They receive their funding from Congress along with overall directives from both Congress and the Executive branch, but their oversight is sorely lacking.

quote:
And that's coming from someone who's accused of wanting ZERO Government spending.


This is just hyperbole x 1,000,000%.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Paj on 8/7/2012 10:45:54 AM , Rating: 2
The amount of useful data learned from the challenge of simply landing a rover the size of a Cooper mini on Mars, in itself, is huge. That's before the data from the mission itself comes flooding in.

The skycrane is a revolutionary concept which has never been attempted before. It is likely to have future applications when exploring other bodies in the solar system.

Additionally, much of the landing was automated due to the delay in communicating with Earth. The coding and programming of this entry sequence was executed perfectly - this should have a good deal of future application when designing AI routines for future landers or probes.

Then theres the rover itself, which has yet to demonstrate its capabilities in terms of mobility, power, longevity, scientific instrumentation... the list goes on.

Seems like a small price to pay for such a mission.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Ringold on 8/9/2012 4:13:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The skycrane is a revolutionary concept which has never been attempted before. It is likely to have future applications when exploring other bodies in the solar system.


Thank you! IMHO, the entire amount spent was validate even if Curiosity was swallowed up by a freak Martian tornado tomorrow, just to gain the experience of pulling off that kind of landing.

All the science that shall now flow forth, that just makes it that much sweeter.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By Jeremy87 on 8/7/2012 2:17:42 PM , Rating: 2
What's the difference between this mission and all the others, except for *when* those missions happened (this being so recent that we don't yet know how all of its inventions will randomly turn up in everyday use)?
With your reasoning, every NASA mission was initially a waste of time, because it always takes time before someone turns a NASA idea into something useful for the public.


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By ShaolinSoccer on 8/7/2012 10:46:55 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
While I love science as much, or more, than the next person I can't help but think there's a more practical way to spend $2.5B dollars. I hope I'm proven wrong and this rover finds incredible things to offset those dollars, but it seems like an incredible waste of resources, along with the other Mars rovers.


I don't understand why people rated you down. I absolutely agree. It's like throwing money away. The only data I could care about is if there is life on Mars. All other data they are sending back is pretty much useless and will more than likely be the exact same data we already have. $2.5bil is a lot of money that could've went into education, boosting medical technology, infrastructure or creating jobs. Not to mention plenty of other things... But you really can't argue with people who don't mind throwing money away just because the word "science" is tacked on it...


RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By m51 on 8/8/2012 12:35:52 PM , Rating: 2
You may care very little for the science, as do many people. There are many though who find it fascinating and inspirational to do these great feats of science and engineering. To learn about our universe. To go on great adventures like putting men on the moon, or sending probes to the planets and out of the solar system.

That interest and fascination that is generated is worth a great deal although it's difficult to quantify. Many people like myself where inspired to go into the science and engineering fields because of things like the space program. Only about 2% of all engineers are involved in new product designs, and yet those 2% create the products that drive the whole high tech industry. The whole high tech economy depends on the intellect, skill, and creativity of a relatively small group of people. To be competitive in a world market, or be a leader you need the very best and most capable people you can get. If you cannot out design and out engineer the world competition you cannot compete and your economy starts to fade.

Anything you can do to encourage and increase those talent bases is amplified a thousand fold in the economy.

At any rate for those interested here are some links to pictures and info for the Curiosity rover.

Main site
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

Entry Descent and landing
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/videos/ind...

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/videos/ind...

Pictures
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/


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