Everything You Wanted to Know About the Mars Rover Curiosity

Aug 6, 2012
Outside
Outside Magazine

On Monday morning at approximately 1:32 Eastern, the new rover Curiosity touched solid ground on Mars after a flight through the planet's atmosphere that NASA dubbed "seven minutes of terror." The state-of-the-art exploratory vehicle will photograph and take samples to see if there were ever conditions on the planet that could have supported life. Here's a bit more on Curiosity's journey, by the numbers.

$1.6 billion: Initial amount of money NASA spent to launch the rover in the fall of 2009. The rover was not ready, and the agency had to wait 26 months for the proper alignment of Mars and Earth for the next launch opportunity. In all, it spent roughly $2.5 billion.

352 million: Miles Curiosity had to travel over eight months to get to Mars.

500,000: Lines of computer code needed to take the craft from a speed of 13,000 miles per hour to a hover of 1.7mph above the ground to a landing on the ground at one meter-per-second via a crane, transitions all helped by 76 onboard explosions that tethered lines, jettisoned parts, and moved valves. (Estimated numbers for that "seven minutes of terror" landing in graphic below.)

Infographic

96 miles: Diameter of the crater where Curiosity landed. NASA employees will test the rover's parts before moving the craft. The rover will take pictures, take samples of rock and gas, and test for elements that show the planet could have harbored life. The rover landed at the bottom of an alluvial fan at the base of a mountain where water may have been present in the soil. It may travel to an area of a mountain where no water is believed to have altered the sediment. The goal is to see how and whether the planet went from a wet environment that may have supported life to a dry environment.

Screen Shot 2012-08-06 at 11.43.09 AM
First picture taken by the rover. Photo: NASA/JPL

4cm/second: Top speed of the Mini Cooper-sized, one-ton craft.

23 feet: Distance the rock-pulverizing laser on board can travel. After the rock is pulverized, the rover will be able to test for the release of gas. It will also be able to take in and analyze samples in a special unit that can test for different elements.

11lbs: Approximate weight of the plutonium fuel source that will power the craft's 10 different types of instruments, which include 17 cameras, a laser, a microscope, and other monitoring equipment.

2 years: Planned duration of power for the mission, although some believe the fuel source may allow the rover to operate for up to a decade.

99: Number of characters and spaces used by President Obama on Twitter to announce NASA's success in landing Curiosity.

$7: Approximate cost every American citizen paid to have a chance to view the landing live online, based on the cost of the mission, according to Charles Elachi, the director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (video below).

—Joe Spring
@joespring
facebook.com/joespring.1

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