23 Nov '11, 12am

Nasa launching $3.25 billion 'dream machine' to explore Mars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) - As big as a car and as well-equipped as a laboratory, Nasa's newest Mars rover blows away its predecessors in size and skill. Nicknamed Curiosity and scheduled for launch on Saturday, the rover has a two-metre arm tipped with a jackhammer and a laser to break through the Martian red rock. What really makes it stand out: It can analyse rocks and soil with unprecedented accuracy. 'This is a Mars scientist's dream machine,' said Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Ashwin Vasavada, the deputy project scientist. Once on the red planet, Curiosity will be on the lookout for organic, carbon-containing compounds. While the rover can't actually detect the presence of living organisms, scientists hope to learn from the US$2.5 billion (S$3.25 billion), nuclear-powered mission whether Mars has - or ever had - what it takes to nurture microbial life.

Full article: http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/TechandScience/S...

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