Curiosity heads to Mars

Nasa’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Centre earlier today on an Atlas 5 rocket at the start of its eight and a half month journey to Mars.  With its massive 900kg rover, Curiosity, it’s being billed as “the biggest and best Mars mission yet.

Mike Meyer is the lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars exploration effort: “MSL plays a central role in a series of missions of looking at Mars and determining whether or not it has the potential for life. It is capable of going to a region and exploring that region, and telling us whether or not it has been, or may even still be today, a habitable place – something that could support microbial life.”

JPLNews have released a neat animation of the anticipated key events of the mission

And, of course, the stunning launch video.

Curiosity is scheduled to arrive at Mars in August 2012 and the initial mission is funded to last for 2 Earth years.  But, as the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity proves, those plans can be extended significantly.