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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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RE: Really Worth $2.5B
By WalksTheWalk on 8/6/2012 4:15:20 PM , Rating: -1
Down rate me all you want; that doesn't change anything. This project had a large cost overrun of $400M like virtually all of NASA's projects. NASA is nothing more than a big government entity spending tens of billions every year.


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.


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