Mission to Mars

A ROVER THE SIZE OF A SMALL CAR will set sail for the Red Planet later this year.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will land the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars, to conduct extended investigations of the planet’s surface…the aim being to work out if Mars has, or had, environmental conditions able to support microbes.

Curiosity is much bigger than past rovers. Sojourner, part of the Pathfinder mission that landed in 1997, was about the size of a microwave oven. Spirit and Opportunity, twin rovers that landed in 2004, are each about the size of a domestic refrigerator.

Curiosity will be five times heavier, and carry 10 times as much scientific gear, than Spirit or Opportunity.

MSL/Curiosity is due for launch on 25 November 2011, and land on Mars on 6 August 2012.

Video and images courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech.

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