NASA To Launch Mars Rover 'Dream Machine' This Week - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

NASA To Launch Mars Rover 'Dream Machine' This Week

MSNBC.COM - After nearly a decade of planning, several cost overruns and a two-year delay, NASA is finally set to launch its next Mars rover this week.

The car-size Curiosity rover, the centerpiece of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, is slated to blast off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday (Nov. 26) after a one-day delay due to a rocket battery issue. The launch comes two years later than the MSL team had originally planned, a slip that ultimately increased the mission's lifetime costs by 56 percent.

But with Curiosity now sitting on the pad, nestled atop its Atlas 5 rocket, MSL's past issues are receding deeper into history. Most eyes are now on the rover's future — its quest to determine if Mars is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life.

"This is a Mars scientist's dream machine," Ashwin Vasavada, MSL deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters on Nov. 10. "This rover is not only the most technically capable rover ever sent to another planet, but it's actually the most capable scientific explorer we've ever sent out."

A beast of a rover

NASA began planning MSL's mission in 2003. Over the past eight years, scientists and engineers developed, built and tested Curiosity, a robotic behemoth that will take planetary exploration to a new level.

At 1 ton, Curiosity weighs five times more than each of its immediate Mars rover predecessors, the golf-cart-size twins Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on the Red Planet in January 2004 to search for signs of past water activity.

While Spirit and Opportunity each sported five scientific instruments, Curiosity boasts 10, as well as a drill that will allow it to access the interior of Red Planet rocks.

The huge rover will use all of this gear to gauge the past and present habitability of its Martian environs. It will look for carbon-containing compounds — the building blocks of life as we know it — and assess what the Red Planet was like long ago.

MSL is not a life-detection mission, but it will lay the foundation for future efforts that could hunt for evidence of microbial Martians, officials said.

"We bridge the gap from 'follow the water' to seeking the signs of life," said Doug McCuistion, head of NASA's Mars exploration program. Click here to read more

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Woman at Staples: Not shoplifting, just pregnant with twins

    Woman at Staples: Not shoplifting, just pregnant with twins

    Monday, August 13 2018 1:12 PM EDT2018-08-13 17:12:24 GMT

    PINEVILLE, N.C. - A pregnant woman shopping at Staples says she was confronted about what she was concealing beneath her shirt: "Twins," she said. Sherell Bates tells WSOC-TV she was at the register paying for back-to-school supplies Friday when a police officer had her step aside and explain what was under her shirt. 

    >>

    PINEVILLE, N.C. - A pregnant woman shopping at Staples says she was confronted about what she was concealing beneath her shirt: "Twins," she said. Sherell Bates tells WSOC-TV she was at the register paying for back-to-school supplies Friday when a police officer had her step aside and explain what was under her shirt. 

    >>
  • Alaska's North Slope hit by high magnitude earthquakes

    Alaska's North Slope hit by high magnitude earthquakes

    Sunday, August 12 2018 7:32 PM EDT2018-08-12 23:32:25 GMT

    KAKTOVIK, Alaska (AP) - The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit at 1:15 p.m. Sunday near the city of Kaktovik on Alaska's North Slope. The earthquake came several hours after the North Slope was struck by the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the region, according to the state's seismologist.  

    >>

    KAKTOVIK, Alaska (AP) - The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit at 1:15 p.m. Sunday near the city of Kaktovik on Alaska's North Slope. The earthquake came several hours after the North Slope was struck by the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the region, according to the state's seismologist.  

    >>
  • Boyds fire near Kettle Falls reaches around 3,000 acres

    Boyds fire near Kettle Falls reaches around 3,000 acres

    Sunday, August 12 2018 1:18 PM EDT2018-08-12 17:18:23 GMT

    FERRY COUNTY, Wash. - Overnight, the Boyds Fire burning in Ferry County near Kettle Falls reached approximately 3,000 acres. Crews say by estimation the fire size tripled overnight to around 3,000 acres. Two residences and numerous outbuildings have been reported lost. In Sunday morning's update from the Incident Management Team, the fire has been listed as minimally contained at two percent.

    >>

    FERRY COUNTY, Wash. - Overnight, the Boyds Fire burning in Ferry County near Kettle Falls reached approximately 3,000 acres. Crews say by estimation the fire size tripled overnight to around 3,000 acres. Two residences and numerous outbuildings have been reported lost. In Sunday morning's update from the Incident Management Team, the fire has been listed as minimally contained at two percent.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/