By David Pescovitz at 8:35 am Sat, Nov 26, 2011
An Atlas V rocket containing NASA's Mars Science Laboratory lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this morning, carrying the new Curiosity rover to the red planet. Follow the updates at NASA's Mars Science Laboratory page.
What are the four towers around the launch pad for?
They’re basically lightning rods. Idea being if there’s a storm while the rocket is out there, they should take the hit instead.
Florida is well positioned as our southernmost convenient launch real estate … and it’s the lightning capital of at least the USA, if not the world…
In keeping with the spirit of a time of budget cuts and diminished expectations, the next Mars rover after this one will be named “Meh.”
I’m very glad that it has now left earth orbit and that the plutonium on board isn’t coming back any time soon.
Was thinking the same thing. Must be a helluva battery.
It’s just trying to get out of town before it’s arrested on charges of killing the cat.
And NASA sends another roveri into the harsh void of space to crash on another rock.
::pours a toast for the Spirit::
Fantastic…I watched it live. The thing that depresses me is the near total destruction of space exploration by modern political movements. Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut, I’m not, but I figured it would be so much easier to get into space when I got older, after all it was the beginning of the shuttle program. So much promise, so little actual exploration. I wonder how many kids nowadays dream of being an astronaut…not that many, I would imagine.
Robots are the perfect thing for us to explore with, at least until we have a good reason to go in person. The “man on the moon” thing was not about getting us into space nearly as much as it was about political one-upsmanship with the Soviets. We would be far, far better off if they had spent the money for Apollo on robot explorers rather than wasting it on a political stunt. You want to get people off the planet? Figure out how to make money in space. Asteroid mining, anyone?
Thanks for posting this David. I find it rather sad that some people are either glib or cynical about this. We humans should be collectively cheering this mission, giving due credit to this positive manifestation of US ingenuity (but not forgetting the global contributions onboard). Do a bit of reading about the rover onboard. Even its method of landing on Mars is going to be remarkable.
Speaking as someone who frequently makes extremely cynical comments about manned spaceflight – which I completely stand by – I rejoice at this serious attempt to understand our solar system.
I’m sure that Vladimir Putin will be calling to congratulate the US as soon as he’s finished cutting the toes off a few Russian space scientists.
They should probably get the message by now that Phobos is a no-fly zone. “Attempt no landings there.”
Too bad about the Planetary Society’s payload, too. But I read that there was some brief, minimal communication restored… no chance to resume the mission?
It’s not looking good. They haven’t had any contact since Wednesday. Projections are it will probably come down in January or February if they can’t get it to respond. I think they were hoping if they missed the Mars window they might be able to try for a moon shot. It is a shame.
Bummer. I don’t know how these things work, but is it possible that Planetary Society took out some kind of insurance on their payload? It’s just extra sad that such a group’s limited resources take the hit from the inevitable gamble necessary to ambitious exploration.
These are pretty neat times. After getting set up (I must’ve been entertaining to the neighbors, with my laptop on the hood of my car, my old grab-n-go binoculars, pajama bottoms and flipflops), the Atlas V liftoff proved to be something of a surprise. At this distance (200 km north), it traced a fairly fast path across the sky. Its trajectory kept it lower then many of the launches we can see locally. Unlike the shuttle, they were pushing for as close to equatorial as possible for that additional boost. But it was the speed that this bird moved with that really astonished me. Back in 1981, I was blown away at how the space shuttle seemed to leap of the pad. This is only the second Atlas V I’ve seen, and really appeared to be… well, fast. Kept up with the flight for a while, followed up at payload separation.
But back to to the “neat times” comment. There are two space stations in orbit (the ISS and Tiangong 1), a robot on its way to Mars, another one that was supposed to be going there but stuck in LEO. Two countries have human spaceflight, China and Russia. The ESA is planning for it, as is India. The US will get back into it… at some point. Still, spaceflight is getting a bit more interesting.
There was a shocking lack of protest over the plutonium load in this one. Either the protesters didn’t care as much this time, or NASA did a much better job of keeping that under wraps this time. Sometime in the last decade NASA put a plutonium powered satellite in orbit and the environmentalists went ballistic (pun intended) over the possible consequences of an “mid air failure” which would have been the equivalent of an airburst dirty bomb, spending 2-3 months before launch parading around about the dangers of launching nuclear material in to space.
Really want the mission to find life, if only to watch the Christian apologists backpedal some. Always fun.
Uh – yeah – it’s a minority of Christians that would have a problem rectifying their faith with finding life on Mars. The Bible never talked about the other planets. Granted those that are against such things are usually the vocal ones.
Is this the one with the EZ-Bake oven in it?
sorry that was in reply to a comment above
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