Science

This Is The Next Mars Rover

I want to ride the Mars Rover Curiosity. Sure, at a maximum of 90m per hour it would be a glacial ride, but the bloody thing is going to Mars. Where have I been lately? To the dog park two blocks from my house, that’s where. And there’s no dog poop in Mars.

But besides going to Mars, Curiosity will do science like never before. It will probably give us a definitive answer to a question that has been haunting the sleep of scientists, sci-fi writers and amazing singers with a permanently dilated pupil for decades: Is there life on Mars? Curiosity will also study the planet’s geology in incredible depth, thanks to new instrumentation that would be able to study the core of rocks. And, equipped with the highest resolution cameras ever deployed in the Red Planet, it will take amazing high definition planet porn (sadly, the 3D camera championed by James Cameron was canned).

But besides all the outstanding technology, this thing just looks like a great machine. It’s also huge: At 3 meters, it’s double the length of the Mars Exploration Rovers. It also has five times the weight of the rovers and more than double the weight of the Phoenix Mars Lander: 900 kilograms. It’s so big that it needs a freaking floating crane to land.

Curiosity is almost finished and, along with the floating crane and the rest of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, it should be packed and send to Florida next month. There, it will get readied to be launched on November 25. I won’t reach Mars until August 6, 2012. I will biting my nails all those months. [Boing Boing and Jet Propulsion Laboratory]

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