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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 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.


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