Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter‘Mars Trek – Curiosity’s Search for Undiscovered Life’ has its galaxy wide premiere Saturday morning Nov. 26 at 10:02 a.m. EST – live on NASA TV.
NASA’s quest ‘In Search of Life’ takes a bold leap in less than 12 hours with the Nov. 26 blastoff of “Curiosity”, the most complex and scientifically advanced robotic explorer ever sent to survey the surface of another world. The 103 minute launch window closes at 11:45 a.m. EST.
Curiosity and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will thrust her to the Red Planet are poised for liftoff after being rolled out to Space Launch Complex 41 around 8 a.m. this morning under the watchful eyes of ground crews, mission scientists, reporters and photographers.
Universe Today was there – reporting live on all the history making and thrilling events !
Launch day weather remains favorable, with only a 30 percent chance of conditions prohibiting liftoff, said Air Force meteorologists. A low cloud ceiling is the sole concern at this time.
The 1.2 million pound booster was pushed 1800 feet along rail tracks by twin diesel powered trackmobiles from the prelaunch preparation and assembly gantry inside the Vertical Integration Facility out to launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The 197 foot tall booster is equipped with 4 strap on solid rocket motors and generates some 2 million pounds of liftoff thrust according to Vernon Thorp, Atlas Program manager for ULA.
Curiosity is NASA’s next Mars rover and also quite possibly the last US built Mars rover due to severe cuts to NASA planetary science budget.
After an eight and one half month and 354 million mile (570 million km) interplanetary journey, Curiosity will slam into the thin Martian atmosphere at 13,000 MPH and utilize an unprecedented rocket powered pinpoint landing system known as the Sky Crane to touch down with all six wheels deployed inside Gale Crater.
Gale Crater is 154 km (96 mi) in diameter and dominated by a layered mountain rising some 5 km (3 mi) above the crater floor which exhibits exposures of minerals that may have preserved evidence of past or present Martian life.
Curiosity is packed with 10 state-of-the-art science experiments that will search for organic molecules and clay minerals, potential markers for signs of Martian microbial life and habitable zones.
Immediately after touchdown, the 1 ton rover will transmit telemetry so that engineers back on Earth can assess the rover’s status.
“When we first land we want to ascertain the integrity and health of the vehicle and look at the surrounding terrain, said Pete Theisinger, MSL project manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., at the briefing.
“The rover’s mast will be deployed on the second day and we’ll get pictures.”
“Shortly thereafter we will begin our science investigations. The radiation (RAD) and subsurface hydrogen detection (DAN) instruments will start right away since they are passive.”
The rover will drive inside the first week.
“The cameras will be used to select targets. We will go up to the valuable targets. With the cameras and instruments we will determine which ones to sample” said Theisinger.
“Then we’ll deploy the arm which contains scientific equipment and collect samples with a percussion drill. The samples will be injected into the two science instruments for analysis that are located on the rover.”
“The SAM and ChemMin instruments will look for organic molecules and isotope ratios as well as identify and quantify the minerals in the rock and soil samples. It could be up to 2 to 3 months before we take the first samples,” explained Theisinger.
MSL is powered by a nuclear battery and is expected to operate for a minimum of one Martian year, equivalent to 687 days on Earth. NASA hopes the 6 foot tall rover will last alot longer.
Complete Coverage of Curiosity – NASA’s Next Mars Rover launching 26 Nov. 2011
Read continuing features about Curiosity by Ken Kremer starting here:
Curiosity Rover ‘Locked and Loaded’ for Quantum Leap in Pursuit of Martian Microbial Life
Science Rich Gale Crater and NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover in Glorious 3-D – Touchdown in a Habitable Zone
Curiosity Powered Up for Martian Voyage on Nov. 26 – Exclusive Message from Chief Engineer Rob Manning
NASA’s Curiosity Set to Search for Signs of Martian Life
Curiosity Rover Bolted to Atlas Rocket – In Search of Martian Microbial Habitats
Closing the Clamshell on a Martian Curiosity
Curiosity Buttoned Up for Martian Voyage in Search of Life’s Ingredients
Assembling Curiosity’s Rocket to Mars
Encapsulating Curiosity for Martian Flight Test
Dramatic New NASA Animation Depicts Next Mars Rover in Action
Packing a Mars Rover for the Trip to Florida; Time Lapse Video
Test Roving NASA’s Curiosity on Earth