NASA Launches Atlas V Rocket to Mars Today

Posted on November 26, 2011

Today NASA launched the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Sealed inside the rocket's payload is the nuclear-powered Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft. The MSL will begin a 9-month interplanetary cruise to Mars. The MSL includes a car-sized rover named Curiosity which will search for signs of life on Mars.

Curiosity will land on Mars next August in an unusual way. It will be lowered onto the surface via jet pack and tethers. Curiosity is too heavy to use air bags, hence the change in landing strategy. Once it lands, Curiosity will roam the Gale Crater for two years or more. Curiosity is equipped with 10 science instruments that will sample and analyze soil and rocks.

Here is the footage from the successful liftoff this morning:

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