Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Curiosity Right Over

Unlike the Russians, at least we can get our Mars missions out of Earth’s orbit.

NASA launches super-size Mars rover to red planet

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

It will take 8½ months for Curiosity to reach Mars following a journey of 354 million miles.

An unmanned Atlas V rocket hoisted the rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into a cloudy late morning sky. A Mars frenzy gripped the launch site, with more than 13,000 guests jamming the space center for NASA’s first launch to Earth’s next-door neighbor in four years, and the first send-off of a Martian rover in eight years.

See also:
NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars
For NASA’s rover Curiosity, it’s ‘Mars or Bust!’
NASA Launches Hefty Curiosity Rover to Mars
NASA launches $2.5 billion rover to Red Planet
Super-size Mars rover blasts off, biggest robotic explorer ever built to roam another planet
Launch of Nasa Curiosity Mars rover could lead to human mission by 2030
NASA launches super-size rover to Mars: ‘Go, Go!’
NASA rover launched to seek out life clues on Mars
Nasa rover begins journey in search of life on Mars
Curiosity on its way to Mars – November 26, 2011
NASA Rover to Begin Journey to Mars
Curiosity Starts Nine Month Journey to Mars
NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Takes Off
Will NASA’s Curiosity rover find signs of life on Mars?
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory

Well, so far so good, the mission is off to a good start. Of course, there’s still plenty of thing that could go wrong, the landing sequence for setting Curiosity down on the Martian surface looks to be extremely complex, like something Rube Goldberg would come up with.

/for $2.5 billion, Curiosity had better perform as advertised and discover something spectacular

Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt — correctly written “Fobos-Grunt,” meaning “Phobos-Soil” or “Phobos-Ground” — is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons.

The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There’s also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe — a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous