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Mars Rover
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by Felice Curcelli
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A Mars rover is an automated motor vehicle which propels itself across the surface of the planet Mars after landing. Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to weather winter months and they can advance the knowledge of how to perform very remote robotic vehicle control. There have been four successful Mars rovers, all of them robotically operated. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed the Mars Pathfinder mission with its Sojourner rover. It currently manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission with its two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and also the Curiosity, which is part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The article goes in further details on the Curiosity Rover.

    • Topic

      • Astronomy: Planets
    • Reading Level

      • Intermediate

The Curiosity rover is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).
 
Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, at 10:02 EST aboard the MSL spacecraft and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, 05:17 UTC.[5] The Bradbury Landing site[6] was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the center of the rover's touchdown target after a 563,000,000 km (350,000,000 mi) journey. The landing site coordinates are:

4.5895°S 137.4417°E.
 
The rover's goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.

Previous NASA Mars rovers became active only after the successful entry, descent and landing on the Martian surface. Curiosity, on the other hand, was active when it touched down on the surface of Mars, employing the rover suspension system for the final set-down.

Curiosity transformed from its stowed flight configuration to a landing configuration while the MSL spacecraft simultaneously lowered it beneath the spacecraft descent stage with a 20 m (66 ft) tether from the "sky crane" system to a soft landing—wheels down—on the surface of Mars. After the rover touched down it waited 2 seconds to confirm that it was on solid ground and fired several pyros (small explosive devices) activating cable cutters on the bridle to free itself from the spacecraft descent stage. The descent stage then flew away to a crash landing, and the rover prepared itself to begin the science portion of the mission.

Celebration erupts at NASA with the rover's successful landing on Mars
Live video showing the first footage from the surface of Mars was available at NASA TV, during the late hours of August 5, 2012 PDT, including interviews with the mission team. The NASA website momentarily became unavailable from the overwhelming number of people visiting it,[116] and a 13-minute NASA excerpt of the landings on its YouTube channel was halted an hour after the landing by a robotic DMCA takedown notice from Scripps Local News, which prevented access for several hours.Around 1,000 people gathered in New York City's Times Square, to watch NASA's live broadcast of Curiosity's landing, as footage was being shown on the giant screen. Bobak Ferdowsi, Flight Director for the landing, became an Internet meme and attained Twitter celebrity status, with 45,000 new followers subscribing to his Twitter account, due to his Mohawk hairstyle with yellow stars which he wore during the televised broadcast.

Final Remarks

Excerpts and pictures from Wikipedia. Video from YouTube(r).