The Mars rover Curiosity will land on the surface to help discover new ventures.
Scheduled to touch down on the surface at 8:31 p.m. on Aug. 5 , this will be the fourth rover sent to the Martian surface and ninth mission to the system in ten years.
Curiosity has several goals while operating as the Mars Science Laboratory.
It will feature an onboard biology lab used to analyze soil samples. This will be used to analyze geological features of the planet and attempt to detect any biosignatures of previous life. It will also be used to understand how minerals were formed on the surface.
Extensive research on the Martian atmosphere will also be done. NASA will attempt to draft a long-term timeline of the atmospheric evolution.
Radiation on the surface will also be measured to determine the intensity in the atmosphere as well as the traces of water.
All of this is being done for research on human missions. Several plans are being made to land on Mars.
SpaceX has teamed with NASA to draft the “Red Dragon” plan. The goal for this project is to put a manned base on Mars by 2023. An orbital pod has already been developed and has performed a successful launch and atmospheric reentry.
With a somewhat more commercial agenda, the Mars One mission also aims to put a base on Mars by 2023. However, the base would then be turned into a reality television show with corporate sponsors and advertisements. This mission would be the last time the volunteers would see Earth. With no way to bring them back, the mission would be a one way trip.
Curiosity is heavier than anything ever landed on Mars. As a result, NASA was forced to develop the sky crane.
The lander will first descend into the Martian atmosphere. Upon reentry, the parachute will then deploy to slow the module down to a controllable speed. The parachute will be released and four rockets will be fired to stabilize the sky crane above ground as a cable lowers Curiosity to the surface. Once the rover has touched down, the cable will be released and the sky crane’s rockets will carry it off to crash land at a safe distance.
The Curiosity Rover was launched from Cape Canaveral on Nov. 26, 2011. It ends its nine-month-long journey through space on Aug. 5 and will continue normal operation on the surface through 2016.