Video: NASA’s New Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ Begins 345-Million Mile Journey To The Red Planet.

How fucking awesome is this? NASA launched their new Mars rover today, Curiosity. Even more amazing? I’ve never realized that it’s a 345-million mile journey. Just wrap your brainstem around the sort of distances we can cover. Tremendous.

Hit the jump to see the launch, and for some deets.

New York Times:

The world’s biggest extraterrestrial explorer, NASA’s Curiosity rover, rocketed toward Mars on Saturday on a search for evidence that the planet might once have been home to microscopic life.

It will take eight and a half months for Curiosity to make the 345-million-mile journey to Mars.

The rover, officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory, was hoisted into a cloudy sky on Saturday morning by an Atlas V rocket. More than 13,000 guests crowded the Cape Canaveral space center for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s first mission to Earth’s next-door neighbor in four years, and the first launching of a Martian rover in eight years.

Pan Conrad, a NASA astrobiologist whose instrument seeking carbon compounds is on the rover, had a shirt made for the occasion. The blue blouse was emblazoned with rockets, planets and the words “Next stop Mars!”

The one-ton Curiosity is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 scientific instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, analyzing them on the spot. It also has a drill and a stone-zapping laser machine.

It is “really a rover on steroids,” said Colleen Hartman, assistant associate administrator for science at NASA. “It’s an order of magnitude more capable than anything we have ever launched to any planet in the solar system.”

The primary goal of the $2.5 billion mission is to see whether Mars might once have been hospitable for microbial life – or might even still be conducive to life. No actual life detectors are on board; rather, the instruments will hunt for organic compounds.

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