It’s very common when someone is writing about space, especially when relating distances, that cars and driving are used as points of reference. There is more than one example of this in my own blogs, when explaining things like the distance to Proxima Centauri.
It’s fitting then that Curiosity, the Mars exploration rover, is roughly the size of a car.
Launched in November 2011, Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars in August 2012. The calculations for the flight were so precise that after flying 350,000,000 miles, Curiosity touched down only 1.5 miles from the center of the intended landing area.
Curiosity has several tasks to perform during its mission, which currently has no definite end date. As it moves across the Martian landscape, it will record data about geology and climate, the presence of water and the possibility of microscopic life, and the potential for human habitats on future missions, to name a few.
Equipped with a large number of tools and imaging arrays, Curiosity is not likely to run out of things to do.
Despite its versatility, though, Curiosity, is not the only probe slated to investigate Mars. Opportunity, another rover, was already gathering information when Curiosity began its mission.
There will be more still, as another mission is planned for 2020 and some private firms are starting to plan for manned ventures.
Could you be a part of them?