Red (Planet) Rover, Come On Over

On August 5th, something incredible is waiting to be known.

NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, will attempt a landing on the Red Planet. The organization’s scientists and space enthusiasts round this blue planet will be gnawing at their nails, as every bit of information we get will be coming with a 14-minute delay. Curiosity is the largest rover to land on Mars, and has even bigger plans than its van-sized self.

A panorama of the Martian surface, from the Viking 1 lander.

If it succeeds, Curiosity will be the seventh rover sent to Mars, the fourth rover of the United States. Previous American explorers have included Sojuourner, Spirit, and Opportunity. Previous landers (who did not roam), include Viking 1 and Viking 2, Pathfinder, the Mars Polar Lander (crashed), and Phoenix. Only Opportunity is still in operation, sending back images to this day.

Curiosity will be landing in the Gale crater, four tons of scientific equipment and delicate machinery, controlled by some adventurous people on a different planet 225 million kilometers away*. You guys, this is really, really exciting. I don’t care if you think Mars just looks like grainy photos of a desert (because okay, it kinda does), we are exploring places we can’t even live on, separated from us by millions on millions of uninhabitable nothingness.

The Gale Crater. Curiosity will be attempting to land within the yellow circle.

Speaking of (not) living on Mars, one of the rover’s missions is to plan for a human mission to Mars. Other objectives include studying the climate and geology of Mars, and trying to determine if life ever did exist on the fourth planet from the sun. This will be done by trying, in part, to discover if the building blocks for life are present, and secondly, if and how carbon dioxide and water exist on the surface. Isn’t science great?

Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011, and will land at 23:00 Eastern Time on August 5th. You can watch on Google+ with Pamela Gay and Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, or on NASATV.

Featured image from here

*This is an average. Because both planets have an elliptical orbit, the distance between the two at any given time can vary hugely.

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Kate Donovan

Kate Donovan

Kate is an outspoken atheist, feminist, demisexual, stigma-busting student in Chicago studying psychology and human development. She juggles occasionally, would knit you something warm if she knew you, and reads anything she can get her hands on. She was raised believing alternative medicine worked, and now spends her time making skeptical faces at it. You can find her on Twitter at @donovanable


  1. August 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm —

    This is so exciting.
    My dad and I watched a vid from NASA called “7 Minutes of Terror” which gives one some idea of how many things can go wrong during this mission. The technology is absolutely amazing!

    Here is the address for the video.

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