It has been years in the making; hundreds of engineers and scientists and debate after debate of where and how to land - but the rover Curiosity has finally touched down and is working properly.
Image from Curiosity - Courtesy of JPL
The rover, equipped with not only a multitude of cameras (17 in all), but a complete assortment of analysis equipment one might find only in an advanced, well-funded research lab here on earth, will be providing us with generations worth of information about the red planet. The next step (currently underway) is a multitude of "heath" tests to determine if all equipment survived the voyage and the incredible landing. A few fun facts:
- The rover is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) which uses non-fissile plutonium which can power the rover for 14 years or more (the mission is expected to last two years).
- The pattern left by the tracks in the sand is actually morse code for "JPL" (Nasa's Jet Propulsion Lab).
- Chemcam (the large "head" of the rover which makes it a bit more "personable"), which can analyze the composition of rocks as far as 7m away, was almost not included twice; once due to a fire, the other due to budget cuts.
- Mars temperature can vary from about -127C to +30C
CAD Image of Curiosity - Courtesy of JPL