NASA Prepares to Blast Nuke-Powered Curiosity Mars Rover Into Space

By Sam Gibbs on at

It's finally ready -- NASA's two-year delayed, car-sized center piece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, the Curiosity rover, is prepped and set for launch this Saturday, November 26th, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA.

The rover's mission is find out whether Martians could really have existed. It's being sent to the Red Planet to find out once and for all whether it has the capability to support life, or ever has done in the past; looking for the carbon compounds that make up life as we know it. The one-ton Curiosity is the most capable, most sophisticated robot ever to blast off to another planet and has been eight years in the making.

It'll take over eight months to get there. Let's hope it gets there in one piece and its ambitious rocket-powered sky crane system works properly. It's powered by a small plutonium-powered thermoelectric generator rather than solar cells, which should keep it chugging along through the harsh Martian winters. While Curiosity's operating life is just two years, but considering both of NASA's previous Martian rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, well outstripped their 3-month life span, hopes are high it'll do the same. []

Image credit: NASA