The United States of America is curious. What's outside this world? Has life existed on other planets in our solar system? Are we alone?
These questions and more are expected to be answered by Curious, the aptly named robot explorer that landed on Mars early this morning. And while the search for building blocks of life in outer space is obviously very exciting, right now NASA scientists are just thrilled to have gotten there.
According to a statement issued by President Obama, Curiosity's touchdown was "the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet" and is "an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future." The Los Angeles Times reports that the mission cost more than $2.5 billion and involved work from over 5,000 people from 37 states.
To land Curiosity, NASA employed "the largest supersonic parachute ever deployed in space, a perilous-looking 'sky crane' and 76 pyrotechnic explosions," reports the Los Angeles Times. If every piece of the landing sequence hadn't worked perfectly, Curiosity probably would have failed, bringing with it potentially dire consequences for the USA's space program.
But now that the rover is safely on the red planet, all that's left to do is wait. The mission will last for one Martian year, which equates to 687 Earth days, or almost two full promotional calendar years. In that time, according to the Los Angeles Times, "Curiosity will search for the other building blocks of life, particularly carbon-carrying organic molecules."
All of this leaves us with one big question: Is the prospect of life outside planet Earth amazing or terrifying?