We Earthlings have always been curious about our neighbor, Mars. It’s appropriate, therefore, that the latest robot sent to explore the Red Planet is called Curiosity.
Curiosity, which blasted off from Cape Canaveral yesterday, is the largest, best-equipped robot ever to be sent to another planet. Its mission will feature a number of significant advances in space exploration technology, including new systems that will allow the Curiosity to parachute to the Martian surface and land with great precision. And the robot rover itself is exceptionally cool. It is huge by rover standards, and it basically is a geological laboratory on wheels that will be able to photograph, laser, sift and test the Martian surface. It also has a fully functioning weather station that will record temperature, wind, and humidity. (Watch for apps that will let you get the daily Martian forecast!)
It will take Curiosity months to get to Mars. After it lands, it will spend two full years rolling around the Martian surface, attempting to answer questions about whether Mars has been, or is now, capable of sustaining basic life forms.
As an American, I’m always proud of our NASA space exploration missions and the ground-breaking (literally, in the case of Curiosity) technological advances that they feature. It’s nice to know that our engineering and space exploration systems work, even if our political systems don’t.