November 28, 2011

MSL on its way to Mars

Curiosity, the ultra-sophisticated rover on the U.S. Mars Science Laboratory mission, lifted off for Mars on 26 November from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Several French laboratories are along for the ride.
28 November 2011

570 millions de km

The Curiosity rover on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday 26 November at 16:02 CET (10:02 local time) aboard an Atlas V launcher.

Weighing 900 kg, Curiosity is by far the heaviest rover ever sent to explore Mars and also the most sophisticated, carrying 10 scientific instruments weighing a total of 80 kg. Among these are ChemCam and SAM, to which France has made key contributions.

ChemCam (Chemistry Camera) will perform selective analyses from a distance of soil and rock composition within a radius of between 1 and 9 m around the rover. SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) will do in-situ analysis of Mars’ soil, near-surface subsoil and atmosphere. It will look for chemical compounds related to carbon, including methane, associated with life.

After a 570-million-km journey, Curiosity is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars in August 2012 at the foot of a 5,000-m mountain inside Gale Crater.