The latest Mars Rover, Curiosity, is set to begin its launch window at 10:02 am ET today. The $2.5 billion laboratory has a 70% chance to blast off today in an Atlas 5 rocket, where it will begin its eight month journey to Mars to spend another two years researching whether or not Mars was ever suitable for life. It's headed to Gale crater, which has deep layers of sediment for researchers to mine. Curiosity is much larger than any previous Mars Rover an five times heavier. It's packed with some pretty great equipment, including a drill on a 2.1-meter arm and a laser to vaporize rocks for easier onboard analysis. It's also nuclear powered so it can take measurements anytime, anywhere:
The Department of Energy built for NASA a nuclear-powered electrical system instead, called a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or MMRTG. It has no moving parts, but converts heat from a small core of plutonium into about 110 watts of electricity around-the-clock and all year.
If you're catching this post in time, we've embedded a livestream of the launch below, and you can also check out NASA's own blog about the launch in the source link. Missed the launch? No worries, there's a YouTube video describing Curiosity embedded below as well.
Update: Looks like NASA had a successful launch — Curiosity is on its way to Mars.