- 10 August 2012
- By John Howell
You may have heard that the human race is back on Mars. NASA's Curiosity rover, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), touched down successfully 6 August, 2012. This robotic space probe is the largest Mars craft NASA has ever launched. It's the size of a small car and arrives equipped with a nuclear battery, lasers, and an impressive array of cameras and other scientific instruments that any good space explorer would be proud to possess. The battery is the first of its kind, containing approximately 5kg (10 pounds) of plutonium-238, which can power the rover for 14 years plus (that's one hell of a charge).
It's now Curiosity's third day in the Gale Crater on Mars and all systems appear to be running normally. NASA are still checking out the rover's equipment before they get it moving, but high resolution images are already coming down. You can scroll through the first colour panorama below (drag with your mouse). The rover's ultimate destination, Mount Sharp, can be seen in the distance along with parts of the rover's body and robotic arm. The black spaces are the areas not covered by the cameras' lenses.
While we wait for a manned Mars mission, we can at least gather some fascinating data and soak up the scenery. After the panorama you'll find a couple of YouTube videos: NASA animations and footage from the mission.
Getting there was an impressive feat of engineering and is amazing in itself, but Curiosity's two year mission has only just begun.
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