Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

An SUV Heads to Mars

Think the existing Mars rovers or the lunar dune buggies from the Apollo days were fun? Wait till Curiosity — an SUV-size rover that left Cape Canaveral in November — arrives on Mars on Aug. 6. The rover will be the biggest, most capable machine on the Red Planet by far, and it will get there in an improbable way — plunging through the Martian atmosphere, slowing itself down with parachutes and air resistance and then being lowered by cables from a hovering propulsion shell. A first act like that will be hard to follow, but the second act — at least two years of Martian exploration — will probably be more than up to the job.