Aptly named Curiosity, this jet is the next generation Mars rover, which will land on the planet on the evening of August 5th this year. To make sure that the rover completes its slated mission, its engineering model Scarecrow is currently being tested. The prototype is being tested by drivers as well as engineers from NASA’s Mars Science Technology at the Mojave Desert, Baker, California. Its mission is to locate the evidence of an ancient dry lake on the red planet and hopefully even microbial life.
To collect the evidence, this flying plane will have to drive around, gather samples and even take pictures. The 2000 lbs rover can attain a speed of 300 feet per hour. But conditions on the red planet make things tough and this has been proved by missions carried out in the past. The Martian winter completely halted the operations of Mars Opportunity Rover sent out earlier by NASA.
To iron out all the difficulties, Scarecrow is being tested out on the Dumont Dunes located in the Death Valley. The topography here is bumpy and uneven, just like on Mars. In fact, the area is popular among adrenaline junkies, who come here often to enjoy a thrilling ride. The engineers testing out the prototype will have to find a way to navigate through the sand traps, which are quite challenging.
The machine currently in flight, took off on November 26th 2011. It was launched from Cape Canaveral last year and will touch base on the foot of a mountain located on the Martian equator inside Gale Crater three months from now. Curiosity is 10 feet long and roughly the size of a Mini. The ingenious name of the rocket ship was given by a sixth grade schoolgirl who won an essay competition. The mission will cost a whooping £1.6billion.