Launched Nov. 26, 2011, Mars Science Laboratory with rover Curiosity lands on Mars August 2012. Curiosity’s mission is to explore the possibility of past or present microbial life on Mars. The rover will investigate the Gale Crater, an area on Mars scientists think contained water at one time. Many scientists believe water is a fundamental requirement for sustaining life.
Earthlings can follow Curiosity’s progress online at www.mars.jpl.nasa.gov.
Curiosity by the Numbers
354,000,000: The number of miles Curiosity will travel. The actual distance between Earth and Mars varies based on the planets’ position to each other as they orbit the Sun.
687: The number of Earth days in a Martian year. The fourth planet from the Sun, a Mars year is almost twice that of an Earth year, but a Mars day is about the same as one here on Earth – 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds.
254: The number of days for Curiosity to reach Mars. The rover is projected to land on Mars Aug. 6, 2012.
1982: The weight, in pounds, of Curiosity. The Mars rover is about the size of a car and made, primarily, of aluminum and titanium.
7: The length in feet of Curiosity’s robotic arm. The robotic arm includes a drill for gathering rock samples. If the drill bit gets stuck within a rock, Curiosity has the capability to release the bit and reinsert another.
1909: The year of the penny Curiosity carries. The penny serves as a calibration target for Curiosity’s cameras and provides a size frame of reference for images taken by the rover.
17,000: The number of images sent back to Earth from Mars Pathfinder, the first successful Mars lander. Data from Pathfinder suggested Mars may have had an atmosphere and water at one time.
12: The age of Clara Ma when she submitted her winning essay in the national contest to name the Mars rover. Her entry Curiosity was selected out of over 9,000 entries from school children around the country.
64: The average temperature Curiosity will encounter on Mars – that’s minus 64 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature variation on Mars is much greater than here on Earth. Temperatures on Mars range from minus 207 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, fortunately it won’t get that cold for Curiosity at its location in Gale Crater.
2: The number of moons circling Mars. The moons Phobos and Deimos are named for the two sons of Mars, the Greek god of war.
98: The number of weeks for Curiosity’s primary mission on Mars. Curiosity is equipped with radioisotope thermoelectric generator and lithium-ion batteries. Many hope Curiosity will continue to operate years beyond its planned mission. Several of Curiosity’s predecessors, like the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, exceeded all expectations by functioning years longer than anticipated. Landing on Mars in 2004, Opportunity still continues providing valuable geological data from the planet.