On November 26, 2011, an Atlas V rocket shot out of our atmosphere with a payload destined for Mars, in a mission known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Riding inside the craft like a giant robot astronaut is Curiosity, the fourth Mars rover to visit the red planet since 1997.
Image: NASA/JPL – CalTech
Curiosity is currently around 73,000,000 km out from Earth and slated for landing on August 6th, 2012. The rover is already living up to its name: conducting experiments en route.
Image: Charles Atkeison
When radiation from an X-class solar storm hit the MSL in January, Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) measured radiation levels inside the craft. These data will help in planning future manned missions.