I am happy to announce that I have been selected to attend the launch of the Mars Curiosity Rover as part of the launch tweetup! The launch is currently scheduled for November 25th.
Curiosity is the next rover headed to Mars. It is much larger than the previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity and will carry a much larger suite of instruments. Although Curiosity is not designed to directly look for life on Mars, it will continue our attempts to determine if Mars had life on it in the past and if there are any pockets where life could still exist. It’s nuclear power source will let it cover a lot of ground and power more advanced instruments (and it won’t have solar panels that can get covered with dust!) It will be able to drill into rocks and scoop up soil and dust to analyze.
A rover this large can’t land with airbags. It has a really cool crane type system that will lower it to the surface of Mars while the crane unit is held aloft by rockets. Kind of hard to envision, so here’s the really cool animation. As you watch the video, remember this all has to happen automatically. Real time communication is not possible at that distance so there is no chance to fix any problems that may develop!
150 Twitter users have been selected to attend the launch tweetup. We will spend November 23rd touring the Cape, talking to mission scientists and trying not to get into too much trouble. We will have a day off on Thanksgiving before watching the launch from the media center on November 25th. Of course we will all be tweeting and blogging about our tours and the launch. You can follow me on twitter @halfastro (for my facebook friends, all tweets are automatically posted to facebook). You can also follow @marscuriosity, @nasatweetup or the #nasatweetup has tag.
Obviously, I will be blogging and tweeting a lot that week!