August 6 – Curiosity Rover At Mars

The Curiosity Rover is scheduled to touch down on the red planet of Mars on August 16, 2012. If the landing is successful, the rover will have completed a journey totaling 352 million miles. Not only is the distance extreme, so is the price tag attached to it. The cost of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), whose mission it is to land the rover to collect samples, is an astronomical $2.5 billion. If everything goes as anticipated, it will be a huge advancement for mankind in the quest to understand the planet Mars. When compared to other projects, the Curiosity Rover is more advanced for the purpose of collecting samples and taking photos of the Mars surface. It is also much more capable of relaying this information back to earth for analysis to determine the possibility of life on the planet. The first test of this important mission will be just to successfully land the rover. According to NASA, the landing is scheduled to take place near the foot of a mountain, specifically in a crater known as Gale. Although this is not the first time that NASA has sent an expedition to Mars, landing the rover is a big challenge as the rover is fifteen times heavier (900 kilograms) than either of it’s predecessors, “Opportunity” and “Spirit”. It’s immense weight automatically disqualifies the Curiosity Rover from having the ability to use airbags in order to land. To aid in the landing, a parachute and a heat shield will be used to ensure that it goes as smooth as possible.

Why Send The Curiosity Rover?

This journey to the distant planet is part of our curiosity as human beings in what lies beyond our own planet. Some of the goals that the Mars science laboratory (MSL) project aims to achieve include the following:

  • Investigate if life exists, or even once existed, on Mars
  • Investigate and analyze the climate of Mars
  • Investigate and study the geology of Mars
  • Determine if it possible to have human missions to the red planet

But Mars Is Not Welcoming

Judging by the number of previous failed missions to Mars, it raises an important question: does Mars really want us there? This is important to ponder since out of all the 38 missions sent to this planet, 24 have been failures. Even when you consider the ongoing rivalry between the United States and Russia, neither country has yet to have a successful landing on Mars. With this history of failure, we can only wonder if this latest landing attempt by the Curiosity Rover will be just another disaster or another giant leap for humanity.

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