Monday, August 6, 2012

NASA Employs Curiosity for 98 Weeks

Conceptual Sketch of Curiosity compliments of NASA
The latest Mars Science Laboratory project has officially kicked off. The rover, codenamed Curiosity, landed in the early hours of August 6th. (2232 5 AUG 12 Pacific time, 0032 6 AUG 12 Central, 0132 Eastern) Within two hours, the rover began sending images from the Mars surface. Over the duration of the mission, you will be able to track images and progress at the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission pages at NASA's website.

Image of Gale Crater compliments of NASA
The primary mission of Curiosity and the project are to determine if Mars ever held life or will be capable of sustaining life in the future. Scientists postulate any evidence will exist closest to any found liquid water.

Curiosity is set to explore, record, image, and sample the planet's surface for the next 98 weeks. Its capabilities include 10 precision scientific instruments and 17 total cameras:  Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Chemistry and Camera, Chemistry and Mineralogy, Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, Mars Descent Imager, Mars Hand Lens Imager, Mast Camera, Radiation Assessment Detector, Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, and Sample Analysis at Mars Launch.

98 weeks is also the length of a single Martian year. The mission is set to last just 6 weeks short of two Earth years. That is one week less than current federal laws grant unemployment handouts to those who lost their jobs.

Sky Crane and Curiosity Infographic compliments of NASA
The landing was an act of remote-controlled precision, setting the lander down near the base of Mount Sharp, just inside Gale Crater. It was lowered into position using a remote controlled sky crane, that lowered the rover, then flew away.

The cost of the project, so far, has been $2.5 Billion, $1.8 for just the development and deployment of the spacecraft.

More facts, figures, numbers, data, and mission information is available in .pdf format.

Here is NASA's official video of the landing and deployment: