Tech Tuesday – The Next Mars Rover has a Destination
The next Mars rover, named Curiosity, which isn't exactly the best name in my opinion but it does fit, is scheduled for a late launch this year and should reach the surface of Mars by August 2012. It has a large robot arm, a "frickin'" laser and is about the size of a small car. And it's all powered by 4.8 kgs of Plutonium-238. Wired Magazine has photos of the rover being assembled.
It's also being reported now, that the probable destination for Curiosity has been determined too. Gale Crater, a 150-kilometer wide depression named after an Australian banker-turned-amateur astronomer, which is said to have a 5 kilometer high mound of sediment there which could further prove that water may have once flowed on Mars. The final decision will be made and announced next week, but sources say that Gale Crater is the most likely place the rover will land.
NASA invited the public to pick the name of the current rover and even got Disney/Pixar's Wall-E character as a mascot to help the contest. The name was revealed on March 27th, 2009. Curiosity will be the seventh rover to land on Mars. It's mission will be to study the past habitability of the planet.