Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Just a Reminder, MSL/Curiosity is Big...

The above image illustrates the general size of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover (right). Moving roughly counter clockwise, we have Curiosity, two NASA personnel, the Mars Exploration Rover (the configuration of Spirit and Opportunity), and to the Mars Pathfinder / Sojourner rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

You may not have heard, or you may have forgotten. After all, it's been so long (hours, even) since we've mentioned NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. In any case, we wanted to remind you that the MSL / Curiosity rover is big...

It started bigger than what will operate on the Red Planet. Back at launch in November 2011, the entire spacecraft weighed 3,893 kg (8,580 lb). At that time it consisted of (1) the 899 kg (1,980 lb) rover; (2) the 2,401 kg (5,290 lb) entry/descent/landing system (the aeroshell plus the descent stage and 390 kg (860 lb) of landing propellant); and (3) the 539 kg (1,190 lb) fueled cruise stage.

Once the entry and landing is complete, late August 5th / early August 6th, we will be down to just the Curiosity rover. But, as we stated, that is still pretty big.

Curiosity is 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length, approximately the size of a Mini Cooper automobile, much larger than the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have a length of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) and weigh 174 kg (380 lb) including 6.8 kg (15 lb) of scientific instruments.

In contrast, Curiosity weighs 899 kg (1,980 lb) including its 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments. Over its two-Earth-year prime mission, and probably beyond, Curiosity will investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.

On August 5th, beginning 8:30 PM PDT / 11:30 PM EDT / 15:30 UTC, NASA will broadcast online the MSL/Curiosity landing coverage. To join in, go to this URL, mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate .

And now, the mission particulars...

The Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover mission is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C., by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (Caltech). More information about Curiosity is online at www.nasa.gov/msl and mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

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