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New Mars Rover Launched by NASA

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Atlas 5 rocket carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity

NASA has launched Atlas 5 rocket carrying the nuclear-powered rover, Curiosity, which is the world`s largest extraterrestrial explorer to Mars.

The six-wheeled, one-armed robotic rover left Florida on Saturday at 15:02 GMT, the state-funded BBC reported.

The one-ton rover is planned to search Martian soil and rocks for any signs that current or past environments on the planet could have supported microbial life.

By the time the rover was ejected on a course to the Red Planet, Atlas 5 was moving at 10km/s.

“Our parameters looked great and we separated on time,” reported NASA launch director Omar Baez.

The first communication from the spacecraft was received through a tracking station in Australia, about an hour after it was launched.

Curiosity, also called The Mars Science laboratory (MSL), is due to arrive at Mars in early August 2012.

The mission is the first since NASA’s twin Viking program in 1970s.

After experiments by the Viking landers, scientists agreed that life did not exist on Mars.

Two decades later, NASA began working on a new plan to find signs of past water on the Red Planet.

The Spirit and Opportunity rovers landed on opposite sides of Mars’ equator in 2004 to embark upon the question of water.

Both rovers found signs that water mingled with rocks in the past.

The new rover, Curiosity, shifts the search to other elements key to life, particularly organics.


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