Giant Mars rover blasts off
November 26th, 2011
10:15 AM ET

Giant Mars rover blasts off

NASA’s biggest and most advanced Mars rover blasted off Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Curiosity is packed with 10 science experiments to determine whether Mars has ever been suitable for life and to find clues about past life forms that may have been preserved in rocks. NASA says Curiosity won’t answer the age-old questions about life on Mars, but it will provide important information that will guide future missions.

Searching for life on Mars

The spacecraft sent a signal after separation from the rocket, NASA said.

The launch was originally scheduled for Friday, but the mission team took an extra day to remove and replace a flight termination system battery, NASA said.

Curiosity is expected to spend about two years roaming Mars, hunting things researchers say are essential for life to grow: liquid water, key chemicals used by living organisms and an energy source.

The rover lifted off Saturday atop an Atlas V rocket and is scheduled to land in August 2012 in the Gale Crater.

Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as the older Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Its science instruments weigh 15 times as much as its predecessors' science payloads.

The rover has a mast that can extend to 7 feet (2.1 meters) to hoist a high-definition imaging system. It also will hold a laser-equipped camera that can zap rocks to study the sparks emitted for information about their composition.

A 7-foot-long robot arm will hold instruments for soil analysis. Unlike earlier rovers, Curiosity can gather rocks and soil to process inside its lab. The rover also has tools to look for water beneath the surface, to monitor the weather and to measure natural radiation.

Curiosity is designed to roll over obstacles up to 25 inches (about 65 centimeters) high and to travel about 660 feet (200 meters) per day. Its energy source will be a radioisotope power generator.

Landing will be tricky because of the rover’s size. As it descends, the spacecraft will make S-curve maneuvers like those used by shuttle astronauts. Three minutes before touchdown, a parachute and retrorockets will slow the spacecraft. Then, seconds before touchdown, an upper stage will act like a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to the surface.

When Curiosity arrives at Mars, three satellites already in orbit will be listening: NASA’s Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express. The spacecraft will be positioned to receive transmissions about Curiosity’s status and relay information to Earth.

NASA: Facts about the Mars science laboratory

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Filed under: In Space
soundoff (1,120 Responses)
  1. Pok Santella

    Sulfur mustard gas is an example of a general toxicology principle familiar to all organic chemists: electrophilic molecules (compounds with localized positive charge) are poisons. Your body is full of nucleophilic molecules (compounds with localized negative charge) like DNA and enzymes that react with electrophilic molecules. Forming "foreign" chemical bonds to such essential molecules is a recipe for death and destruction.

    December 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  2. Will S

    You could fund the US Geological Survey for 2.5 years for what this one mission costs. It costs one quarter of the *entire* Depart of Interior's annual budget. Its nifty, but is it worth the money?

    November 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  3. palintwit

    Sarah Palin is against space exploration because she feels that god is being poked in the eye everytime a rocket is launched.

    November 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  4. Lilarose1041

    I have a good life now, just as I did when Bill Clinton was president. I will be voting for Pres. Obama again. Newt will be 69 on the day he would be inaugurated and Romney will be 66. Too old to be able to handle the pressures of the presidency. If they get two terms, they will be "ancients" by then! Hopefully their wives are young enough to be "Nancy Reagans" and secretly take over the presidency when the old boys' brains slowly fail.

    November 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • pirate

      II wish they would lay off of the housing market and stop these insane NSP programs.. They only take away great investment opportunities from investors who immediately create jobs, instead these properties sit vacant and vandalized, growing mold, only to use taxpayer dollars instead of investor dollars to do the same thing, and months or years later after killing property values in the area due to mold and vandalism. I am not a republican, nor a democrat, both sides don't seem to have a clue how to fix this. Sorry its off topic...

      November 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  5. Island Alpha

    That Rocket looks familiar. Was it not originaly designed to carry a Nuclear Warhead ?

    November 27, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  6. Adam

    As temperatures on Earth rise, water (70% of the surface area of Earth is water) evaporates quicker. As more water vapor enters the atmosphere it traps more heat in (greenhouse effect). As more heat is kept in, the temperature rises faster. Also, more water vapor in the atmosphere = more clouds. This ends up, at a certain point, tipping the balance and reflecting more sunlight out to space than gets through. In the end, global warming leads to a dramatic cooling far greater than the warming was. This leads to an ice age. I am sorry you have had difficulty following the logical sequence of events that, by the way, has been documented repeatedly in Earth's history.

    Secondly, liberals do not all have humanities degrees and are not all hippies. It is a political distinction. I actually studied astrophysics. I know liberals with biochemistry degrees and forensics degrees. Calling all liberals humanities majors would be like calling all republicans christian studies majors. It's insulting, rude and doesn't reflect the truth.

    November 27, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  7. Marge

    He he he he....when I saw Rover to Mars I almost busted a gut...I really truly thought that it was an article about Rove. Wish it was and he was on his way to Mars. He he he he

    November 27, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  8. PCOTE

    A mission to Mars ! Only American's can do it. You have a so wonderfull country and I was very impressed by goodness found in every citizen. Sadely politics has to play a role into further space exploration, Cost are so important that only sciences accomplishement for humanity should be taken ibton consideration.

    We have to look at sciences in school as a priority. But to promote a learning environnement we need to promote child support. Both side of the chambers have USA people interest in minds. No humans regardless of origin should be allowed to die without dignity. Space exploration put money into our economy and enable more children to attend school and not starve. How many genius potential have we lost over tha past years only god know's !!!!

    Let's explore our world within and still keep up with space exploration. A great human achievement.

    November 27, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  9. victorcamp

    Our curiosity, exploration, and discovery are essential for human survival. Keep up the good work NASA!

    November 27, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  10. Ray

    Space exploration is beyond the volleyball match of politics. We have been "looking up" since before (insert any time reference). Take your political bickering and go elsewhere. I realize it is incredibly expensive, but regardless humans will seek out an understanding of their surroundings, always. This includes 400 million miles away and of course beyond. Just be glad the United States of America is at the helm in this voyage, with good aid from our curious allies of science. God Speed.

    November 27, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Ray

      ** obviously I speak of current exploration, not the Eisenhower I.C.B.M. era where getting aloft was purely militaristic **

      November 27, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  11. AlienShark

    It would be cool if the next report said something like, "Unexpectedly, the new Mars rover found dinosaur bones sticking out from the Martian sand."

    November 27, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  12. NOGR8RH8R

    Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

    November 27, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  13. Steve

    Hopefully this time they didn't mix metric and imperial measurements.

    November 27, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  14. migs

    Why is NASA so interested in Mars? It seems that the Moon is the place to send rovers. First things first.

    November 27, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Juniis Gallio

      Unlike the Moon, Mars has the possibility of being habitable with sufficient effort (habitats in the early stages, terraforming later on). Also, unlike the Moon, Mars has the potential of once having had life of its own. Colonies on Mars, if they become practical, will have far less difficulty in being developed, because Mars already has an atmosphere (thin and unsuitable as it currently is), and it has about twice the gravity (low gravity is extremely damaging to the human body over an extended period of time).

      Additionally, while I certainly don't want to sound like some slacker boasting that he already has the t-shirt, we've already been to the moon. We certainly have more to learn if and wen we return to the moon, but the possibility of a new frontier is always alluring to the human spirit.

      November 27, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • NOGR8RH8R

      It's a cover story. Actually, it's a veiled attempt at destroying an approaching near Earth object without alarming the public. : )

      November 27, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  15. James Boyd

    They're sending robots-not humans-much safer aND LESS EXPENSIVE mY KeyBoard says much lESS exPensiVe.!!

    November 27, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  16. chf

    Folks on both sides of the aisle are missing the point. The potential for mining is huge. What if they discovered large deposits of rare minerals such as gold, platinum, neodymium, etc? I mean much larger than all found on earth and easier to access. One of Jupiter's moons is rich with with hydrocarbons. No doubt the oil barons are salivating at that thought. All the anti-science naysayers would suddenly do a 180 when their eyes light up at profits.

    November 27, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Juniis Gallio

      Oh, I've not missed that–right now we don;t have the technology and infrastructure in place to do manned missions at all, much less large-scale mining operations. But I would imagine that such findings would be a heck of a motivator to get the tech invented, and the motivation in place!

      November 27, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  17. Chris Barlow

    I'm not American, and I can tell you from the outside that the USA rocks because of things like this. You should be as proud as hell.

    November 27, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Juniis Gallio

      Thank you. 🙂 A lot of us are proud. Most of us are also worried about other things (the economy, as you can surmise), and sometimes worry rearranges your priorities.

      And then, there are always a few trolls about....

      November 27, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  18. Maltese Falcon

    Medical research is science. There are basic things about the cell which are still not understood. The complete chain of molecules which comprises the cancer process has still not been fully elucidated. Without this basic knowledge, the current scientific establishment is never going to understand any microorganism found on Mars or anywhere.

    November 27, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • junius gallio

      Excuse me, but that's patently ridiculous. If we find life on Mars, will we understand _everything_ about it? Of course not. But the two examples you cite and the putative existence of life on Mars will most likely be different enough that the examples you name will not be imperative as prerequisites.

      There is also this: if we do not advance a new science until we have completely mastered the old ones, we will never do ANYTHING new. There is no field of human knowledge which has be "fully elucidated." But we DO have a substantial foundation of fundamental knowledge, even without the ridiculous standards you seem to be insisting on.

      November 27, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • SuffolkGuy

      OK, but remember that many of the greatest advances in medicine were accomplished outside the medical field. Chemist Pasteur was paid to find out why beverages went sour and ended advancing the prevention of disease. Physicist Rontgen created the first X ray photographs while researching radiation.

      November 27, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Chris Barlow

      Are you a chatbot spewing words that sort of sound like English? A 'cancer process' is not 'comprised of' a 'chain of molecules', and even if a normally intelligent person can guess what you meant this has nothing to do with the topic here.

      November 27, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  19. Maltese Falcon

    "Humanity" has no interest in the exact composition of Mars. Only a small number of scientists and scientifically minded students are interested in the subject. Moving out of subsidised housing to a separaqte house is far more important to most people than the planets.

    November 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • junius gallio

      As has been cited before (in this discussion, I believe), more Americans support and approve of NASA than disapprove.

      November 27, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Get a job in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and then you can move to a better home.

      November 27, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      "Moving out of subsidised [sic] housing"

      In essence, you are asking that a rocket scientist should give you his/her home. Ain't gonna happen.

      November 27, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  20. Joseph

    Those who think this is a waste of money. Let's put the spending in perspective. NASA budget 17 billion, you get inspriation, science, technology, a wish and drive for the next generation. Department of Education 75 billion, you get redundant beauracrats at a federal level repeating what is done at the local and state level. Which inspires the next gerneation more, washington know it alls making rules for teachers or astronauts? (End the Department of education, double NASA's budget, and you'd still have 50 billion to improve life on this rock.)

    November 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • SuffolkGuy

      The National Science Foundation Budget for all sciences is almost 8 Billion; The Dept of Education is ten times as much and produces what??? My schools are funded locally. Exactly what does the Dept Ed accomplish that justifies its existence? As noted by this poster NASA is at 17 billion and at least accomplishes something. Sliightly off topic.

      November 27, 2011 at 12:35 am |
      • Juniis Gallio

        Read for yourself: http://www2.ed.gov/about/what-we-do.html

        November 27, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  21. Reemo8534

    Wow, expected to land in August 2012? Didn't trips to Mars used to take like over 2 years? I guess space technology is improving afterall.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Joseph

      Depends on the postion of the planets, they move!

      November 26, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • pirate

      Probably depends more on orbits of the Earth and Mars in relation to each other..

      November 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      The trip takes 2 years if Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the sun. Six months if they are on the same side. The speed of chemical-based engines has a limit which is impossible to exceed.

      November 27, 2011 at 1:53 am |
      • Daniel

        Unlessyou took more fuel up! Then you could burn more during acceleration/deceleration.

        November 27, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  22. Google Face

    Great!! More space tash. Stop going out of our own orbit and make a photo cells cheep.... So we can get off the grid for cheep. that is what I need. not more space trash.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  23. Ramon F. Herrera

    FiscalSanity is not only uneducated and ignorant, but actually seems to be proud of it. S/he is the typical bagger.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Joseph

      I doubt Fin is a tea Party member, most are educated and want spending of the government reduced and spent on worthwhile progjects. He/she seems to just want more spending on 'human' need rather than science.

      November 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  24. Ramon F. Herrera

    Here's a couple of great links for the bean counting, penny pinchers teabaggers, as well as the no nonsense folks and the dreamers:

    http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/
    http://www.nasasolutions.com/at_home.html

    November 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  25. Joseph

    To those who think this is a wast of money. NASA budget is 17 billion, yields jobs for the best and brightest, inspires the youth, ackowledges that there are things more important than me, me, me. Meanwhile the federal department of education budget is 75 billion, which does not inspire, frustrates teachers, angers parents, and creates jobs for bearacrats. Over each teacher there is a department chair, a principal, a school district administrator, a state department of educations–and then washington thinks it needs ot be over that same teacher so there is a federal department of education (talk about redundant and wasteful.) End the department of education, double the NASA budget and you'd still have 50 billion to do 'good' here on Earth.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Fiscal Sanity

      Exactly how inspired is a a child that died of starvation?

      Seriously, you space geek/nerds need to get a life!

      November 26, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
      • pirate

        Go pick on other areas of huge waste, there are so many better targets for your complaints..

        November 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      > Exactly how inspired is a a child that died of starvation?

      Disney and NASA are working on edible plants that can grow in space. If we learn how to make food in space, can you imagine how much easier it will be on ole' planet Earth?

      http://www.nasasolutions.com/at_home/farm1.html

      November 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
      • Fiscal Sanity

        Het Ramon, here is a clue for you... Learn to grow food on earth first. Geeze, you really do not have a clue do you?

        November 26, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
      • Ramon F. Herrera

        "Learn to grow food on earth first. "

        Unlike you, some of us can walk and chew gum at the same time. BTW: What crappy community college did you attend? They did a terrible job.

        November 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
      • Daniel

        Ramon; not all community colleges are crappy. Because of the rising cost of higher education, CC's tend to educate over 50% of new college students in their first two years post-high school.

        November 27, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  26. Joseph

    It should a manned crew on that flight, a robitic rover never inspired children or demonstated the strength of human achievement.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • pirate

      Joseph: Your "never" was crushed this morning when I took my kids to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland to watch a live broadcast of the launch, along with some narrative and Q/A with some NASA reps...

      November 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
      • Joseph

        How would your kids like to talk to someone who has been to mars!

        November 26, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
      • pirate

        They'd love it. Doesn't take away from the fact that they were inspired by a robot though. I told my daughter SHE could be an astronaut that goes to Mars! Boy did that get her interested!

        November 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
      • Fiscal Sanity

        How would your kids like a good meal if they were starving?

        November 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
      • pirate

        Well thanks to the space program, citing Wikipedia: Enriched baby food
        Commercially available infant formulas now contain a nutritional enrichment ingredient that traces its existence to NASA-sponsored research on algae as a recycling agent for long-duration space travel. The substance, formulated into the products life’sDHA and life’sARA and based on microalgae, can be found in over 90% of the infant formulas sold in the United States, and are added to infant formulas in over 65 other countries. Martek Biosciences Corporation's founders and principal scientists acquired their expertise in this area while working on the NASA program. The microalgae food supplement was inducted into the Space Foundation Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2009.[19]

        November 26, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      We need to send machines first, like the Russians sent a dog (Laika) and the US a chimpanzee. In fact, the production of air and water on Mars will be done beforehand by robotic equipment. It will take them years to make the needed amounts. A LOT of work must be done before the first human (hopefully American) sets foot on the red planet.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
      • pirate

        And don't miss the fact that sending rovers is way cheaper than sending humans!

        November 26, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  27. Schmegma

    For some, chewing on hot wings on the couch while watching Dukes of Hazard reruns is enough in life. For others, space exploration is a gift we give to future generations of scientists and dreamers.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  28. Geoguy49

    Beverly, at the top of this conversation, could not be more on the money with her observations. Without a doubt, the biggest clear and present danger to the security and stability of the United States is the right wing of the Republican Party, and their corporate backers. Reactionary to the point of being Neanderthal with regard to climate change, evolution, stem cell research–their litany of ignorance is boundless, and a cornucopia for late night comedians!

    Where are the intellectually rigorous and honest (if prickly) Republicans, like the late Bill Buckley, for instance? Is the rest of the party so spineless that they can't refute the utter drivel of the Tea Party? Buckley would have slaughtered them! What a huge embarrassment that must be for the apparently few critical thinkers left in the Party of Lincoln.

    All of this relates directly to the launch today–without funding for education, without cultivating intellectually gifted students–regardless of their economic or even immigration status–we really will end up on the trash heap of history. Our science education is already in decline from the standpoint of numbers of new students in technical areas–Asia, and China especially, beat us by factors of 3 and 4 at undergrad and gratduate levels!! the Republican education cuts will only accelerate the deterioration. If you don't believe me, go to the NSF site http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf07319/pdf/nsf07319.pdf, or Google DARPA and "significant decline".

    The kind of thing that occurred today–a precision launch of the absolute cutting edge technology into the profoundly unforgiving abyss of deep space–could not happen without billions of dollars of government advocacy, government programs, government money, and government sponsored scientific graduate programs, all spent on the premise that doing the right thing for our country, and for mankind, is worth it. You will have to look long and hard among the selfish, profit-motivated, inward-directed, mean-spirited Tea Party Republicans before you find anything approaching that kind of transcendental approach. Instead, look for poorly conceived invasions that above all diminished, rather than enhanced the security of this nation, and spent us into the poor house. Amazing, actually, that any thinking person is not too embarrassed to be part of the GOP these days.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Joseph

      I'm a 'right wing' conservative who thinks money spent on the space program is too small. If we were spending boated budgets on give aways, and union protection we'd have more money for space and infrastructure.

      NASA budget is 17 billion, yields jobs for the best and brightest, inspires the youth, ackowledges that there are things more important than me, me, me. Meanwhile the federal department of education budget is 75 billion, which does not inspire, frustrates teachers, angers parents, and creates jobs for bearacrats. Over each teacher there is a department chair, a principal, a school district administrator, a state department of educations–and then washington thinks it needs ot be over that same teacher so there is a federal department of education (talk about redundant and wasteful.) End the department of education, double the NASA budget and you'd still have 50 billion to do 'good' here on Earth.

      November 26, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  29. RetainingH20

    Occupy Mars! Rover will camp out on Mars for 2-years to protest Wall Street greed.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Fiscal Sanity

      And do about as much good as those occupiers here on earth.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  30. Fiscal Sanity

    And exactly how much is this thing costing the taxpayers?

    Seriously, I would rather spent that money blowing up a few terrorists then wasting it to learn if life ever existed on Mars.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Juniis Gallio

      The space program has cost far less than the technology (and the profit from that technology) has brought in. Indeed, it can truly be said that in overall effect to the economy, space technology and space research has been a moneymaker both for the government and for the economy as a whole.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
      • pirate

        Juniis: I don't dispute you in the slightest but do you have some facts/statistics to back that up?

        November 26, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
      • Juniis Gallio

        The biggest areas of impact have so far been as follows:

        1. Direct R&D for military use. As much as our liberal friends might disparage the "military-industrial complex," almost all of NASA's early work was directly applicable to military technology–and since NASA has no manufacturing capability, the projects went directly to industry. The contracts for NASA are, pure and simple, a large economic stimulus to industry specifically, and to the economy as a whole.
        2. Civilian applications of military technology. NASA and DARPA both have long records of releasing any technology not specifically restricted to military applications to the public. While DARPA's most famous project is the Internet, NASA has had less publicity (Tang is often cited, erroneously, as a NASA spinoff–it is not), NASA has an impressive record of civilian industrial applications. A comprehensive, but not exhaustive, list can be seen at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off.
        3. Applied Science. Advances in meteorology, navigation, communication, satellite imagery, "earth science," medicine, and general technology can be directly attributed to NASA. Perhaps some of our more cynical friends could reconsider their skepticism the next time they get a weather forecast, consult a GPS, or consult Google Maps.
        4. "Pure Science" research. Perhaps the least economically quantifiable area.

        Think of the above categories–think how much those fields affect our lives every single day. Think of the areas that may affect our lives that we are not even aware of. NASA's advances have affected everything from mine safety to species conservation, from water management to computer simulation, from industry to food preparation.

        It is impossible to fully quantify the positive economic effect NASA has had, but just a brief and honest consideration of the above spinoffs will let any inquirer know where the economic balance stands.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Joseph

      Space exploration feeds the soul and inspires. There is no price tag on that. For the record (NASA budget 17 billion and Federal Department of education 75 billion). Which agency has inspired more children into science and math–astronauts or beauracrats in a bloated and redundant education agency?

      November 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      At the launch of ATLAS 5 John Zurrella and T.J. Holmes mentioned that some question whether the money spent by NASA is worthwhile considering the U.S. deficit and debt. There is no doubt that this money spent over the years has not only benefited mankind as a whole but has also created new technologies, industries and jobs and has contributed much more to the US economy than the cost.
      AT THE HOSPITAL..."Cool" Laser Heart Surgery
      Nobody thinks it's "cool" to have a heart operation, but thanks to NASA technology a "cool" laser is providing thousands of patients with an alternative to heart bypass surgery.

      It is estimated that some five million Americans suffer from "hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis), the single biggest cause of heart disease and related ailments. Until recently, heart bypass surgery, which replaces clogged blood vessels, was the main treatment for serious cases.

      A non-surgical alternative to some patients is balloon angioplasty. Through this procedure, a flexible catheter with a tiny balloon at its tip is threaded into the blocked artery and inflated to widen the path for blood flow.

      In January, 1992, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new surgery method derived from laser technology pioneered by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for remote sensing of earth's ozone layer. This laser surgery can help a broader range of patients than balloon angioplasty.

      The procedure involves threading a small catheter through coronary arteries. The laser light is carried through fiber optic bundles within the catheter. Another group of fibers shines a light at the tip to provide video pictures of the inside of the artery. Watching the video pictures, the doctor can spot areas of blockage and fire short bursts of laser beams to vaporize them. While other types of lasers are too hot for delicate heart surgery, the excimer laser operates at a "cool" 65° C, a temperature that human tissue can tolerate.

      AT THE HOSPITAL...Space Telescope Looks for Cancer

      Breast examinations (mammographies) help in the detection of breast cancer. Until recently, if a doctor saw an a trouble spot on the x-ray he or she would order a biopsy procedure. A biopsy required surgery to cut into the breast and obtain a tissue sample. Now, however, with the help of Hubble Space Telescope technology, biopsies can be performed with a needle instead of a scalpel.

      Charged coupled devices (CCDs) are high technology silicon chips that convert light directly into electronic or digital images. Goddard Space Flight Center headed the development of an advanced, supersensitive CCD to be installed in the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997. The LORAD Corporation of Danbury, Connecticut adopted the new CCD for their breast biopsy system.

      As shown above, the patient lies face down with one breast protruding through an opening. The device images breast tissue more clearly than conventional x-rays. This allows the system to pinpoint the area in question. The doctor can then use the specially designed needle to extract a tiny sample. The patient can then walk out of the office and resume normal activities.

      The procedure costs about $850 compared to about $3500 for traditional biopsy surgery. The new procedure also saves the patient time and pain, and leaves only a small needle mark rather than a large scar.

      AT THE HOSPITAL...Body Imaging

      In the mid-1960's, as NASA prepared for its Apollo moon landing program, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) developed the technology known as digital image processing to allow computer enhancement of Moon pictures. This technology later became the basis for the NASA Landsat satellites.

      Digital image processing is now being used by doctors and hospitals to record images of organs in the human body. Two of the most widely used body imaging techniques are computer-aided tomography (CATScan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

      CATScan image data is collected by aiming a fan-shaped x-ray beam from a number of different directions around the body. A tomographic (slice-like) image is reconstructed from these multiple views by a computer. MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images, rather then x-rays.

      In most cases, CATScan is used for bone, while MRI is used for soft tissue (such as the liver shown above). Both methods are often used to obtain a complete diagnosis for a patient. Doctors and engineers are working to combine the best features of MRI and CATScan. One of their research tools is a computer program originally developed by NASA to distinguish among Earth surface features in Landsat image proces

      AT THE HOSPITAL...New Arms and Legs

      The making of artificial limbs is known in the medical world as prosthetics. This field also includes orthopedic aids such as knee and neck braces. The Harshberger Prosthetic and Orthotic Center, Inc., Birmingham, Alabama specializes in making these devices (an artificial arm is shown at left).

      Harshberger wanted to improve the way it makes artificial limbs. There was a need to replace the plaster and corn starch materials used to make molds for new arms and legs and similar devices. The plaster molds were heavy, easy to break (and unfixable when they broke), and were hard to ship and store. Harshberger asked NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama if they could help.

      MSFC and the Lockheed-Martin Company are responsible for building the space shuttle external tank. The ET is covered with a foam insulation. It protects the ET from heat, and keeps the liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen inside the tank at proper cold temperatures. The ET insulation is lighter, stronger and can be worked more easily with a machine than plaster. Also important, the foam material is less expensive to use.

      Harshberger tried the ET foam to make molds for the fitting of artificial limbs. It worked! The company was able to reduce the costs of making an artificial limb, which lowered the cost for patients. They were also able to mass-produce foam "blanks" for making molds, and began to ship them to artificial limb makers all over America.

      AT THE HOSPITAL...Infrared Thermometer

      Believe it or not, in the U.S. alone, someone takes someone else's temperature about two billion times a year. And that's just in hospitals and the doctor's office! The two billion figure doesn't include all those anxious moms and dads checking on junior's fever.

      If you think that's amazing, think about this: the latest in thermometer technology was made possible by NASA's ability to measure the temperatures of stars and planets – without ever leaving the ground!

      Taking the temperature of distant bodies is made possible through sensing of infrared radiation given off by the star or planet.

      Diatek Corporation of San Diego, California, asked NASA to help them develop the sensor technology for a hand-held thermometer that takes a person's temperature in less than two seconds. The thermometer has a probe that is inserted a little way into the ear. (The patient doesn't even have to be awake.) The probe is thrown away after use and replaced by a new one, as a guard against cross-infection.

      To take someone's temperature in two seconds saves nurses a lot of time!

      At the Hospital…Light at the end of the Tunnel for Cancer

      Light emitting diodes (LED), used for plant experiments on the Space Shuttle, are being used to perform surgery on patients with brain cancer. Photodynamic Therapy, a MSFC Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Quantum Devices collaboration, uses LEDs to activate photosensitizers (light-sensitive, tumor-treating drugs) that have been injected intravenously. Light activation allows the drugs to destroy cancerous cells, leaving surrounding tissue virtually untouched.

      As a result of over five years of research and experimentation, the LED probe has gained FDA approval. Cancer treatment trials using the LEDs have thus far included skin cancer and brain tumor patients, with promising results.

      A second chapter in the partnership focuses on LEDs wound healing powers. Subject improvements in wound healing will have multiple applications, including long-term space flight, military solutions, and civilian medical care. LED usage for wound healing has been approved by the Naval Special Warfare Command.

      The transfer of LED technology from experiments for the Space Shuttle to the medical community is but one eAt the Hospital..."Smart" Composite Forceps
      NASA X-33 composite material was used to create a new improved obstetrical forceps. These "smart" forceps, with embedded fiber optics, will allow doctors to measure the amount of pressure being applied to an infant's head during delivery. The elasticity of the composite material and the ability to tailor its thickness along the length of the forceps will prevent the physician from exerting too great a force.

      Most doctors get their first experience of using forceps in an actual infant delivery. These composite forceps will be used to train medical students before they step foot into the delivery room.

      Example of how NASA's commercial space research leads to improving the quality of life on Earth.

      AT THE HOSPITAL...Pill-Sized Transmitter
      Monitors Fetus from Inside the Womb
      Medical personnel can monitor fetal activity from inside the womb using a small pill-shaped transmitter developed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Field, Calif. Pill transmitters are used to measure blood pressure and temperature in astronauts aboard the International Space Station, but they are being studied for a number of applications on Earth. The transmitters can be implanted in the intrauterine to monitor fetal activity; swallowed to monitor intestinal activity; and are being developed for use in monitoring athletes and high-stress professionals such as firefighters and soldiers.

      AT THE HOSPITAL...Digital Mammography
      Provides Clearer Images, Less Radiation
      Technology developed for monitoring changes in the Earth's atmosphere is now being used for the early detection of breast cancer. The digital image detectors, similar to those found in video cameras, were developed at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The system captures sharper digital images, while exposing the breast to lower doses of radiation, than with conventional mammography. The images can then be digitally stored or sent via computer

      AT THE HOSPITAL...Camera on a Chip
      Used to Diagnose Osteoporosis
      Physicians soon may be tracking the onset of osteoporosis using "camera-on-a-chip" technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The small, lightweight camera chip, initially developed for recording images in space, incorporates onto one chip all of the electronic controls normally requiring multiple chips. By consolidating the controls onto one chip, the devices are smaller, lighter and use a fraction of the energy of multiple-chip cameras. For patients, this means smaller dosages of radiation-as little as 1 percent the dose of a normal x-ray-and a lower cost.

      FOR SCIENCE...Global Communications
      If you look At Home, you will see the role NASA played in developing satellite TV transmission technology. But TV signals are only one kind of data transmitted by satellites. Telephone signals, computer data, and computer images are also beamed around the world via satellite.

      Many American companies sell satellite data transmission services. These commercial space communications systems evolved from high-risk technology developed and tested in orbit by NASA in the 1960s and 1970s. This technology base allowed the US telecommunications industry to lead the way in building and operating communications satellites.

      NASA’s series of Applications Technology Satellites (ATS) were launched between 1966 and 1974. These satellites (ATS-6 shown above) stimulated advancements in telecommunications technologies in areas such as:

      geosynchronous orbit (GEO) – orbiting with the Earth so that the satellite is always above a particular spot on the ground
      satellite stabilization – keeping the satellite from wobbling in orbit
      use of digital computers
      solid state high-power transmitters
      large antennae that provide high quality signals to small ground receivers
      advanced materials (such as graphite composites) for building satellites
      NASA also pioneered the use of GEO satellites to “look down on" low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The GEO satellites relay data between the lower LEO satellites. Data is also relayed from the LEO satellite through the GEO satellite and down to the ground. This technology means that NASA and satellite companies can operate their satellites with a minimum of ground stations.

      NASA has deployed six of its own Tracking and Data Relay Satellites. TDRSS is a network of GEO satellites that provides communications and tracking services to the Space Shuttle and other low-earth orbiting spacecraft.

      The latest in a long line of NASA experimental communications satellites is the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) (shown at left). Launched in September 1993, ACTS serves as a "switchboard in the sky." ACTS is being used by industry, universities, and government to develop new satellite services, including real-time TV transmission to airliners.

      Today, commercial companies are taking the lead in providing satellite services to the public. However, with ACTS, NASA remains on the forefront of developing satellite and data transmission technology.

      FOR ALL HUMANKIND...Feeding the World –
      And Other Worlds Too
      Lush, ripe tomatoes hang at the end of the boat ride in the Land exhibit at Disney’s EPCOT Center. They aren’t there just for looks. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Disney World are working together in a novel government and industry research partnership.

      NASA and Disney are finding ways to use human and industrial waste to provide the ingredients needed for growing edible plants. This technology will be needed for establishing human colonies on other worlds.

      Many vegetable farmers around the world are learning how to grow crops without soil. This method, known as hydroponics, is increasing the Earth's food-growing capacity. Wheat and soybeans have already been grown using this method. Future crops will include peppers, other kinds of beans, spinach, oats, barley, strawberries, and herbs. Growing food without soil also has promise for long space flights. Astronauts will grow their own food without carrying heavy soil into space.

      FOR THE ENVIRONMENT...Oil Spill Control –
      None of Your Beeswax!
      How do you clean up an oil spill? With balls of beeswax, what else?! These aren’t your usual balls of beeswax, however. These contain microorganisms (little critters that can only be seen under a microscope) that “eat” oil.

      Petrol Rem, Inc. of Pittsburgh, Penn. invented the idea. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Marshall Space Flight Center helped to design the tiny beeswax balls (microcapsules).

      The beeswax microcapsules are designed so that water cannot get in, but oil can. When the oil seeps through the shell, the microorganisms inside release enzymes that digest the oil. When the balls get full of digested oil, they explode. They release enzymes, carbon dioxide and water, all environmentally safe. This mixture is even good fish food!

      For All Humankind...Preventing Landmine Explosions
      A current activist movement has increased the visibility of the problem with landmine explosions. Landmines maim or kill hundreds of innocent people and children every day. It is estimated that more than 110 million active mines are scattered in 70 countries with an equal number stockpiled around the world waiting to be planted.

      Thiokol Science and Engineering has developed a more effective way of de-mining these mines by using NASA Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) scrap propellant. The flare is easy and safe to handle. It is simply placed next to the uncovered landmine and ignited from a safe distance by a battery-triggered match. The flare burns a hole in the landmine's case and ignites its explosive contents. The explosive burns away, disabling the mine and rendering it harmless.

      Because the usage of the scrap propellant is free, the ability to proliferate landmines is more probable. The scrap propellant is not only useful in the eradication of landmines, but it is recyclable as well.

      AT HOME...Cordless Power Tools and Appliances
      Do you use a cordless drill or shrub trimmer? How about a Dustbuster®? Did you know that the technology that made these products possible came from NASA's Apollo program?

      Astronauts needed a way to drill down beneath the moon's surface, as much as 10 feet, to collect core samples. Like everything else that went to the moon, this drill had to be small, lightweight and battery-powered. To develop the drill, NASA chose a company that has since become well known for its cordless products: Black and Decker.

      A key technological advance made the battery-powered drill possible – a computer program was used to design the drill's motor to use as little power as possible. That computer program, along with the knowledge and experience gained in developing the drill, provided a strong technology base for developing battery powered tools and appliances.

      Black and Decker now sells approximately 400 million dollars worth of cordless, rechargeable products per year.

      AT HOME...Smoke Detector
      Hopefully you've never been waked up in the middle of the night by a smoke detector. It would be bad enough in your home, but imagine having a fire on your space ship!

      In the 1970's, NASA needed a smoke and fire detector for Skylab, America's first space station. Honeywell, Inc. developed the unit for NASA. Smoke detectors are now required by law to be placed in all new homes. They are credited with saving countless lives.

      So, the next time you're awakened by a smoke alarm, remember, it could be worse. Try running outside a space ship in your pajamas!

      AT HOME...Clean Water for the Home
      Many families are buying water filters for their homes. One model is the HOME Guardian filter made by Western Water International (WWI) of Forestville, Maryland. The filter is installed under the sink (as shown at left) or in the "dead space" between the sink and the wall.

      This filter uses technology developed by WWI, combined with NASA technology. During the Apollo program, NASA developed a system to sterilize the astronauts' drinking water. This method included the use of ions (an atom or group of atoms carrying a positive or negative electrical charge) as part of the water filtering system.

      The H2OME removes lead, chlorine, bad taste and odor, and other bad stuff. WWI also sells filter units that can handle large volumes of water. These are used in large buildings, and even by entire towns in countries where the water is contaminated.

      AT HOME...Home Insulation
      Have you ever scratched your head wondering why your electric bill is so high? Even after you've installed rolls of insulation, or had insulation blown into your attic, or caulked your windows?

      Until recently, home insulation has not been a very exact science. But would you believe there's now a company that will install insulation then guarantee that your house will only use a specified number of kilowatt hours per year?

      It's true, thanks to an aluminum heat shield developed for Apollo spacecraft. The heat shield was designed as a barrier to keep heat or cold or in or out of the spacecraft that took our astronauts to the moon.

      The Guaranteed Watts Saver SystemTM is marketed by Guaranteed Watts Saver Systems, Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina and Smart-House Consultants, Inc. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They combine space technology and other high tech ideas to provide significant savings in home heating and cooling costs. Their NASA-derived Smart-House Radiant Barrier is designed to reflect away 95 percent of the sun's radiant energy.

      Pretty cool!

      AT THE AIRPORT...Lightning Protection
      Bad weather is bad news for airplanes. One of the most unpredictable elements of a storm is lightning. NASA's Langley Research Center played a leading role in lightning investigations with its seven-year (1980-86) Storm Hazards Research program.

      The project used a research airplane that flew into storms hoping to be hit by lightning! They were successful. The plane was struck more than 800 times!

      NASA found that lightning injects a large number of electrical currents into an airplane. These currents can cause problems in the plane's electronic systems, including incorrect instrument readings.

      These and other findings led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require that critical aircraft electronic systems be protected from the effects of lightning beginning in 1987.

      Lightning Technologies, Inc. of Pittsfield, Mass., worked with NASA on the Storm Hazards Research Program. They are now selling lightning protection systems to aircraft manufacturers worldwide.

      AT THE AIRPORT...Windshear Prediction
      Another dangerous situation for aircraft is windshear. Windshear has been blamed for over 30 aircraft accidents in the U.S., and the loss of hundreds of lives. After a bad windshear accident in 1985, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA began to work together to find a way to predict windshear, and to give pilots enough warning to take preventive action.

      Windshear is a sudden shift in wind direction and speed. The microburst is the most dangerous form of windshear. A microburst is a column of cool air that creates intense downdrafts and powerful, swirling winds near the ground. If a slow moving airplane, especially one taking off or landing, passes through a microburst, the winds can cause it to lose control and plunge toward the ground.

      The system that became the first in airline service is the Doppler microwave radar. It sends a radio wave ahead of the aircraft to "bounce" off of raindrops in the thunderstorm and return to the instrument. A computer measures the Doppler shift (the difference in wavelength frequency between the outbound wave and the returning signal) and tells the pilot the speed of the winds in a windshear. The pilot can then avoid the area, or adjust the speed and/or altitude of the plane.

      Flight tests of the system began in 1991. Like the lightning protection project, NASA had the job of flying into thunderstorms – 131 thunderstorms to be exact. (Anybody looking for a fun NASA career?!) These tests showed that the forward looking Doppler radar was able to provide pilots with 20-40 seconds of warning of upcoming micobursts.

      In November 1994, a Continental Airlines flight was the first to carry the new windshear detection and warning system.

      NASA has helped to make air travel safer for passengers and crews all over the world. Many American airlines are using the system, plus Swissair (Switzerland), Alitalia (Italy), Iberia (Spain), and Kuwait Airways.

      AT THE AIRPORT...Collision Avoidance
      Bumping into a thunderstorm in an airplane is no fun. But bumping into another plane is definitely worse!

      American skies are crowded with aircraft, especially around airports. Even in the mid-1950's aviation groups began looking for ways to warn pilots if they were getting too close to another plane. But it wasn't until the 80's that more advanced technology allowed a system reliable and cheap enough to be installed on thousands of passenger planes.

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) led the development of the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TACS). NASA's Ames Research Center was in charge of testing the system's human performance factors. This means they wanted to be sure that pilots could accurately and quickly use the system.

      How did NASA test this collision avoidance system? With huge airborne games of chicken? No! (Thank goodness!)

      Using ground-based flight simulators, NASA tested how well airline pilots understood the TACS, and how long it took them to react to various situations. The TACS' software was then modified to make it easier and faster to use.

      Just about any passenger plane you fly in now has a TACS. After NASA helped get the system ready, FAA required that TACS be installed on all passenger planes with 10 or more seats by 1995.

      IN THE MUSEUM...Dead Sea Scrolls Brought to Life
      The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a cave in Palestine in 1948. The ancient parchments contain many materials in the Bible and related to the Bible. The scrolls have recently become available to experts all over the world. One problem, however, is that many of the scrolls look totally ruined to the naked eye. The black ink is invisible against the ancient blackened parchment.

      Some of these parchments were supplied to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) by research groups. JPL used technology earlier for document monitoring at the National Archives, as described in the Historic Documents article, above. They examined the fragments with highly sensitive electronic cameras and computerized image processing techniques. JPL was able to increase the contrast between the ink and the parchment. A line of Hebrew letters brought to light by NASA technology translate into "he wrote the words of Noah."

      IN THE MUSEUM...Looking for a Hidden Masterpiece
      People who work in museums often find evidence of a second painting beneath the painting they are looking at. Painters of old often painted over someone else's work – or their own. In most cases, the artists could not afford new canvasses.

      "The Crucifixion", shown above left, is by an unknown 17th century Flemish painter. When the head of conservation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) looked at it, he saw signs of another painting underneath. How do you tell whether the covered painting is an unknown masterpiece?

      Usually, the painting is x-rayed. But x-rays only show a blurred double image that does not have enough detail to tell the subject or the creator of the underpainting. The LACMA asked NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to help in seeing the covered painting.

      Using technology used to process images from spacecraft, JPL developed a method for separating the two x-ray images. These computer programs "subtract" the top painting from the bottom, so the hidden painting can be seen in greater detail.

      In the case of "The Crucifixion", another 17th century painting was found. If you look at the painting shown to the right, you can see a man's face (to the left-center of the painting). To the man's left is a woman sitting with her right arm propped on a table.

      Though in this case no hidden masterpiece was discovered, art museums now have an option when trying to decipher the works covered up by yesterday's artists.

      FOR SCIENCE...Laser Sharp!
      Lasers emit narrow, intense beams of light. The beams can be used to drill, cut or melt materials. As you can see At the Hospital, lasers can be used to cut out diseased body tissue. Laser beams can also be used to transmit communication signals. Microlasers are miniaturized, solid-state lasers that offer much better performance that traditional lasers.

      Amoco Laser Company of Naperville, Illinois, is a leader in microlaser technology (one of their models is shown above). Their lasers are used in many applications, such as medical instruments, color graphics and printing, advanced TV projection, telecommunications, data storage, and semi-conductor processing.

      In developing their microlasers, Amoco combined their technology with advances made by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL’s work concentrated on using lasers to communicate between Earth and spacecraft millions of miles away. Amoco adopted JPL’s approach of using tiny diodes (which deliver electrical current) to “pump” a solid state laser. This method is very efficient electronically and produces a very narrow and precise laser beam.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
      • pirate

        Wow... I knew there were tons of other side benefits, thanks for copying and pasting from wherever you took it.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
      • Ramon F. Herrera

        "thanks for copying and pasting from wherever you took it."

        I found it in a couple pages earlier (how's that for timespace?) 🙂

        November 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
      • Fiscal Sanity

        Yawn. A perfect example of waster time and energy. Thank you Ramon for proving my point. If these funds had been DIRECTLY applied to the troubles of the world, instead of receiving the byproducts, what a difference it would have made.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
      • Fiscal Sanity

        Ramon, you you actually thing anyone is going to read all that cut and paste crapola?

        Please, do something productive with your time.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
      • junius gallio

        So, in other words, you're not looking for answers to your questions or counterarguments ... you're just trolling.

        Thank you for playing. Have a nice day.

        November 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  31. QaSsY

    I think exploring life on other planet is a challenge and need not only for NASA but for whole mankind living on earth planet and after 100 years I guess we need more resources to live on earth as already due to daily increase in population resources on earth decreasing . I should suggest USA GOV and NASA to Build an international organization and get combined funds and scientist from other countries and involve them as well. We need more advanced and fast traveling vehicle to explorer planets rapidly, this need a lot of science, engineering and money. NASA should not act monopolistically At this point I know there is some Secrecy and race but I think due to world economic crisis and future demand we should work globally. More countries, more scientists, more money, more ideas, more advancement

    November 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  32. Jimmy

    What a colossal waste of money.

    November 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Your ignorance is even greater. No only do you have no clue about science or technology but economics or history. What a colossal waste of education!!

      November 26, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
      • Fiscal Sanity

        With all the problems we have right now, determining if life ever existed on Mars is a total waste of time and money. Seriously, think of all the wasted education and brain power spent on this project, and for what? To satisfy someones curiosity.

        November 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
      • Ramon F. Herrera

        "To satisfy someones curiosity."

        What you fail to understand is that "someone" is humanity. A much more powerful force than the Tea Party, which is hopefully going extinct.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
      • Fiscal Sanity

        No Ramon, actually those people are only a hand full of nerds with no concept of what real life is all about. How very sad to be you. You have my pity and my prayers.

        November 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Ah! We have a bagger in the audience!

      November 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  33. Maltese Falcon

    CNN reporter John Zarella managed to say something about the miniscule amount that the space program took up out of the federal budget. "Five cents on the dollar" is about how he phrased it. 5% of a 2 Trillion dollar budget is 100 BILLION DOLLARS!!! What percentage of the voting population is really interested in investigating the rocks and dust on that utterly useless planet? 5%. Get rid of the idiotic space programme now, you stupid morons. Second rate countries do not waste a hundred billion on stuff like that.

    November 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • junius gallio

      Mr. Zarella was incorrect, and so are you.

      The current (FY2011) budget for Nasa is $18.724 billion. The last budget I have available for the federal government is FY2010, which was $3,456 billion. The actual percentage for NASA from the federal government is about .54%–slightly over 1/10th the amount you cite.

      As for public support for NASA, support is much higher than your post states. As of 2008, 71% think NASA is doing a "good" or "very good" job at “maintaining its leadership in space exploration." 52% support or strongly support increasing NASA's budget. Source: http://www.spacecoalition.com/files/galluppolls/final%20report-june%2008.pdf

      November 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Russia is a 2nd. rate economic power. They are 11th. country in GDP, below Italy and Brazil, at the level of Spain. It would be interesting to compare the percentage of GDP they spend on space, compared with the US.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
      • Ramon F. Herrera

        Here's a good article about space expenditures:

        http://www.scilogs.eu/en/blog/spacetimedreamer/2010-04-21/space-budgets

        November 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Joseph

      The budget for NASA is 17 billion. For the department of education (federal) which is totally unnecessary is 75 billion. why do we need beauracrats in washington dictating how the states should educate their citizens is beyond me. Which has inspired more advancement in science and math, Astronauts or Bearacrats?

      November 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  34. Ronald Hussein Reagan

    I thought the headline said, Rove heads to Mars" Naturally, I figured Karl Rove was searching for a planet where Dick Cheney was popular or respected..

    November 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  35. pirate

    Books are meant to be read, not burned! (sorry to anyone who does not understand my analogy...)

    November 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  36. Ramon F. Herrera

    With all certainty there are other civilizations out there. Billions of them. Some are in the same neighborhood (solar system) are have discovered one another, like Columbus.

    Sadly, we have no neighbors 😦 and the possibility of traveling to another star is essentially zero. The time involved is unimaginable.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Correction: I was just reading that the closest solar system (Epsilon Eridani) is a mere 10 light years away. That distance is doable.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027121317.htm

      November 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
      • junius gallio

        Sadly, even Epsilon Eridani is not doable with our current level of technology. 10 light years at the speed of Helios 2's maximum velocity would still take over 44,000 years.

        November 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
      • Ramon F. Herrera

        "Epsilon Eridani is not doable with our current level of technology."

        I was thinking of the photon or plasma propulsion that they show in the History/Science/Discovery Channel. Then there warping of timespace. 🙂

        November 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
      • Juniis Gallio

        I didn't catch that episode, so I don't know the capabilities or speeds they were speaking of. However, I have to assume that the proposed methods of propulsion discussed are not yet practical, else we would be using them for current missions.

        Don't get me wrong–I most certainly wish they WERE practical! 🙂

        November 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  37. Morgan

    May Curiosity excel like its sisters, Spirit & Opportunity, and further widen our knowledge of the amazing universe!

    November 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Fiscal Sanity

      At what cost? Please explain to the starving children of the world why you think this is the best use for spare cash.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
      • Joseph

        NASA budget 17 billion. Lives inspired and countless minds opened, priceless. Department of Education budget 75 billion, pointless redundant beauracrats in washington, creating regulations and spending money, a total waste of cash.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
      • Daniel

        Why are the children starving? Because of space exploration?! No. Because their parents had them when they couldn't afford them. Or because their father skipped out on his responsibilities. Or because both parents made bad choices, and dropped out of high school. But not because we spend less than 1% of the budget on NASA.

        November 27, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  38. indianinusa

    Ramon F. Herrera wrote, "Economic activity is the only way out of a recession."

    Duh. This is a stupid statement as the definition of recession is weakening of economic activity.

    What you really mean is government directed pseudo-activity that results in awarding contracts to cronies and non-profit (so-called) groups, don't you? clearly, you got indoctrinated because the tarp and stimulus failed. according to paul krugman (your hero), we should be having a boom by now with unemployment having fallen back to 6 percent after peaking to 9 in 2010. he wrote this in 2009.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  39. indianinusa

    junius gallio wrote: "Excuse me, but Damrell ruled IN FAVOR of CAPEEM (both in Aug 2006 and March 2008), not against them. CAPEEM later settled with the State of California. See the CAPEEM Pressroom section of their website."

    very interesting and thanks for pointing out the website as it has a document listing the details of indoctrination in textbooks! look for kumar declaration in legal docs section of capeem dot org! thanks for the find.

    though not familiar with the website, suffice it to say that i have friends who know people who run capeem and i also followed the lawsuit as i am an indian and indians were involved in it. the judge ruled in favor of capeem on various issues but evaded the indoctrination claim (the general belief is it is because that claim would have required publishers to reprint the books and would cost them millions of dollars). so the books remain even though he ruled in favor of capeem. in general, indians feel betrayed because of this and there is a general perception that democrats are very corrupt. the other thinking is that if whites were involved, the ruling would have been different.

    those who helped in the adoption of the books were all democrats. indians raised the indoctrination angle right at the time of adoption.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • junius gallio

      "all democrats"

      In California, elected educational offices must be nonpartisan.

      Frankly, at this point, I rather have the idea that you would insist they were democrats simply because it suits you to use the word as an insult. I'm not interested in insults–they demean the one who casts the insult far more than they demean the intended recipient.

      I cannot do otherwise than to despise your method of communicating your opinions, but I will note that you have corrected yourself when information contrary to your stated opinions has been presented. I honor you for that, but I implore you to abandon the use of insults and disparagement in your arguments.

      Namaste.

      November 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  40. Ramon F. Herrera

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_Ljhhtka6c&w=640&h=360]

    November 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/is-there-life-on-mars.html

      November 27, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  41. Big NASA fan

    Never, in my life, have I EVER been exposed to such a massive amount of willful DUMBASSERY. I now fully understand the phrase, " You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think." I swear, my IQ dropped 2 points while reading the comments posted here. That the overwhelming amount of technological achievement resulting from NASA would be ignored by so many...
    The fact is, humans will advance to space, if God doesn't kill us all to save the rest of creation from MORONITIS first...

    November 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  42. james

    I remember when the Martians were sending flying saucers to earth.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  43. trinida

    Spoiler! There is life on Mars.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Seriously, in this solar system the world with the most chances -very similar to Earth- is Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. The problem is that liquid water may be several miles underground, or should I say, under ice.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
      • Daniel

        Ganymede and Callisto might also be Jovian candidate moons. But the radiation coming from Jupiter itself must be taken into consideration.....

        November 27, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  44. Ramon F. Herrera

    To the NASA nay-sayers: This technology will help us avoid the big asteroid that is coming our way. In the year 2037 there will be a close call. How's that for priorities?

    November 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • pirate

      Great point! lol

      November 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  45. Ramon F. Herrera

    The only difference between Muslims and the religious right is that one dedicates a lifetime to study one book (the Quran) while the other dedicate it to another book (the Bible). That's about it.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  46. Not Fat

    Herman Cain is trying to figure out if Obama is for or against Mars before he states his position.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  47. deb

    with all that's wrong on this planet, yes, we certainly need to spend billions finding another one we can destroy.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Your descendants may have to relocate to Mars, Deb. We will need to warm it first, though. Fortunately, we already know how to warm a planet! Estimates are that the Mars temperature can be raised to an acceptable 32 degrees in about 100 years.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
      • indianinusa

        guess the method to do this is to hand over 1 trillion dollars to al gore's investments and trade carbon credits with each other.

        November 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  48. Marilyn

    The next thing some of you with your pitchforks will want to fire the science teachers too.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      You should have read the bible thumpers early. One of them wrote that he was convinced there is no (intelligent) life in the solar system (which is true), not based on scientific research and exploration, BUT because the Bible says so. (I wonder what chapter is dedicated to NASA)

      November 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  49. Marilyn

    Next thing some of you with your pitchforks will want to fire all the science teachers too.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  50. Catherine

    As for - . ---- Its so cool that you are so insecure of yourself that you do not even put an ID up! never the less. A movie made the same comment you did..... It’s called Contact. About a girl whom grows up and works for seti, when you say false security that perhaps you should lesson too. My suggestion is you watch it at some point.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  51. Tom

    I'll believe it will explore Mars for 2 years after the Rube Goldberg rocket sky-crane landing system works. It seems a heck of a lot more complex than just dropping to the surface in a nest of beach balls :-).

    November 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  52. ZCups

    Speaking as somebody with a M.S. in Aerospace Engineering GaTech, this is incredible and very, very cool and an incredible feat of technology. The Saturn V is pretty amazing in and of itself and what I have read about the ground vehicle is awesome. Orbital mechanics is not easy and this goes way beyond that – congrats to NASA and JPL on a job well done (to this point at least, there is still a lot that can go awry).

    Lets keep up with education and make sure it is us, the US, that keeps pushing the boundaries of scientific research – it is so important and gives us the majority of the technology we enjoy in our normal lives. Peace and Happy Holidays!

    November 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • pirate

      "Like"

      November 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • junius gallio

      I agree with pirate! Keep up the great work!

      November 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
      • pirate

        Technology might be the thing that brings down mankind, but at the same time it very well might be the thing that saves us! The meek shall inherit the earth, the rest of us shall escape to the stars!

        November 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  53. matin

    God speed. i believe in America.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  54. jaberwalki

    This is one of the articles that explain people's ideas of 50% pay zero taxes.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/business/economy/14leonhardt.html

    November 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  55. John2010

    I'm just glad it didn't blow up on lift off. Otherwise we would've been out 2.5 Billion dollars and had 8 pounds of plutonium 238 in fallout around florida. Does anyone want to start a pool for whether or not Curiousity will find evidence of life on Mars?

    November 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • junius gallio

      Curiosity will NOT find "evidence for life on Mars"–that's not what it's designed to do. It will evaluate Mars' _suitability_ for possible life, but is not equipped to directly detect life.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
      • John2010

        Do you honestly think the scientific community would've paid out 2.5 Billion for a rover, without sending up something to detect "evidence of life on Mars" ? (which is different than saying, "evidence for life on mars" or implying that life cannot be directly detected by the rover which means life could still be present on mars). Next time don't misquote me.

        November 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
      • junius gallio

        It's not a "misquote" if I copy and paste your exact words, John.

        No, Curiosity is not designed to detect evidence of life. Curiosity has eight scientific objectives (quoted from Wilipedia, cited to JPL):

        1. Determine the nature and inventory of organic compounds.
        2. Inventory the chemical building blocks of life as we know it: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.
        3. Identify features that may represent the effects of metabolism or biosignatures.
        4. Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials.
        5. Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils.
        6. Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) Martian atmospheric evolution processes.
        7. Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide.
        8. Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic radiation, cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons.

        See http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/science/objectives.html for more info.

        November 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
      • junius gallio

        Excuse me, John–you are correct, and I did misquote you. My point, however, remains the same.

        November 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  56. Hari

    These missions are completely useless and a complete waste of time. The stupid government is good at wasting other peoples money. The billions invest in this nonsense project could have been used to help the people on Earth. But of course they are doing testing for weapons etc. Good way to fool the foolish brain dead citizens people, who like post dated checks; that will never be valid. You haven't completed looking for life on earth but you want to go to mars to look for life. Such ignorant idiots we got in power no wonder everybody hates the exploitative American government. Just see what is going on in the news.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • pirate

      It is programs like these that stimulate the minds of our youth, but I guess they missed yours.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Daniel

      Exploration is not a complete waste. It is rarely a waste at all. Exploration can lead to discovery, which leads to advancement. By opposing exploration, you advocate ignorance....

      November 27, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  57. shadowram

    Does anyone know why all the engineers are all wearing isolation gowns and masks during the development and testing of Curiosity

    November 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • junius gallio

      Those are to minimize contaminating the satellite with dust, hair, sweat, etc, thus minimizing the chance for either equipment malfunction or test contamination.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
      • pirate

        llol.. at last someone asking questions rather than putting down each other or the space program!

        November 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • hgbear

      That's to keep Curiosity as clean as possible, thus preventing "contaminating" Mars with traces of life on Earth.
      We want to detect traces of life on Mars, and not our own we brought there with our spacecraft.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  58. hgbear

    How shortsighted someone must be saying "who cares about what's out there", and that space exploration would just be a waste of money.

    If those entrepreneurs funding Columbus' missions some 500 years ago had that same mindset, the USA would not exist today.

    The power of a nation is not built upon superstition like religion, but upon science and knowledge.
    The desire of human beings to explore the unknown is natural and cannot be stifled, and the knowledge we gain from research makes us strong, not some belief in something that probably does not exist.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  59. Catherine

    To comment on this, and other peoples comments, I think it is pretty obvious what’s more important then taking a rocket ship to another planet. Everyone’s comments has unconsciously or consciously, as you are talking about it, expressed this and that is the social imbalances that is happening on our own planet. We are going through an Arab spring. Massive changes in our environment, and many social injustices and financial injustices. We know you have had your head in the stars, but it is time to wake up and face reality! Sheer selfishness. All this money is going trying too find something that so far two other rovers on Mars have still not found anything substantial. In other words why are we spending millions of dollars doing this when such money could be used to help our economy, and those in need to strengthen our society? Suddenly the supposable genius that is those whom work at NASA look far less intelligent, certainly not on the genius category. Call me crazy! But I think there brains could be used much better helping some of the problems we have here, then looking up at stars that probably do not have anyone looking back. Other then god. That’s right I said the G O D KISS MY ASS! Perhaps if we did chose to care about more our world then we would have earned the right to go to the stars. As well as treat other civilizations that may, or may not be out there with respect. Something we sorely miss here on earth. Someday sure we should look out side are own boundaries. I love learning about space and am a scientist in my own small right myself. Every person probably is. But what would be the point of making such discoveries if we can not fully respect all creational life spiritually in this world ether. Will we be a virus or will we be a friend? You have to work from the ground up. Not the top! Something science has forgotten and is the most important step, If not then science is a failure waiting to happen.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • junius gallio

      Catherine, I think you would find that the folks at NASA are some of the people on this planet most likely to treat any proposed alien civilization with respect and courtesy.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      "so far two other rovers on Mars have still not found anything substantial."

      Earth has been sending vehicles to Mars since 1964. They build on each other, and there will be many more (are you familiar with software versions?). Thanks to Russia's crashes the probability of successful landing was 50-50%, but it has improved after the twin rovers. The things that have been discovered are extremely substantial, but not for somebody at your level of education and knowledge (due respect).

      November 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  60. us1776

    Atlas V is about 25% taller than shuttle and about 2 times the payload.
    The Saturn V moon monster rocket was about 2.5 times taller than shuttle and had about 5.5 times the payload.

    Back to real rockets and deep space missions.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Can the Saturn reach Saturn?

      November 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
      • us1776

        Think about it.

        Any rocket that can launch a probe out of Earth orbit means that the probe can go anywhere in the universe.

        .

        November 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
      • pirate

        lLol – yeah given enough time and a trajectory with no interference from gravitational pull of other objects out there!

        November 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  61. _.___

    You do realize that science is the reason we have blood transfusions, cures for diseases, technology(computers, cell phones, etc.) The only reason we have ever advanced as a species is because of science. We need to get out of the war and fund science. Sorry but pray all you want, that little placebo won't do anything for our species but create a false sense of security.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Wars have produced lots (most? all?) of science. That's the way it works...

      November 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  62. jackinstein

    right now, I am on my way to Mars...got me a good bottle of wine and am enjoying all the sights and spinning galaxies along the way. Look...I just saw a huge comet fly past my ship and there Ron Jeremy just ran by naked chasin a black nude black woman with a huge azz!!!

    November 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • us1776

      Man, didn't they tell you to cut that stuff?

      .

      November 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  63. ALIENS=NEPHILIM=DEMONS

    Foolish humans, you won't find life as in E.T./Aliens out there because all out there is IS not physical but spiritual...angels/fallen angels,...fallen angels which are demons/nephilim can masquerade as what seculars call UFO encounters/aliens/ET to deceive, just like they do appearing as ghosts/passed away loved ones to deceive there's no hell/heaven no consequence for sin thus you're earthbound.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • junius gallio

      Thanks. We'll ponder that.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • John2010

      Actually, Nephilim is a biblical name with multiple meanings because it is used in different contexts. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2003).

      November 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
      • pirate

        Must be a full moon out tonight! The crazies are out!

        November 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  64. Qev

    Now, THIS is progress...of the most human kind.

    The naysayers here are the same people who would have denigrated the DoD's funding of the research that led to very medium that they are using to denigrate this research–The Internet.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  65. jackinstein

    what's the big deal with more money wasted on useless fireworks. The US is broke and needs to replenish its money supply before going back to these wasteful space luxuries!!!

    November 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • us1776

      This rover was already built. Started back in 2003. They just been waiting for Mars to get into right position to fly it.

      .

      November 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Economic activity is the only way out of a recession.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  66. Dale

    What's the difference between Obama, Bachmann, Perry, Romney, and the falling U.S. dollar?

    ..the dollar was once worth something

    November 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Let me guess: big fan of Ron Paul, are ya'??

      November 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  67. indianinusa

    to junius gallio: i just saw your comment on textbooks asking for the citation. mcdougal littel's teacher's edition has the point about the LORD making the wheels fall off the chariots of the egyptians. glencoe mcgraw hill has a biography of jesus and assigns dates to supernatural events like moses seeing a burning bush on fire and paul having a vision in 33 ad. other publishers including holt, oxford univ press and TCI do this too. there was a lawsuit on this and mike newdow of the pledge case fame was involved but a corrupt democrat judge ruled that hindus do not have associational standing and should have filed directly instead of forming an association to file it. this is of course a bogus claim.

    their documentation of what was in the books for their lawsuit against the dept of education is online,

    November 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • junius gallio

      Excuse me, but Damrell ruled IN FAVOR of CAPEEM (both in Aug 2006 and March 2008), not against them. CAPEEM later settled with the State of California. See the CAPEEM Pressroom section of their website.

      If you are referring to a different case, you will have to be more specific in your citation–try pointing towards the actual court case.

      November 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  68. Anonymous2012

    'Contact' in 2012? Just in time for Christmas next year. Didn't they just find a possible water crater on Mars not too long ago? Not saying the Mars rover is a lie by any means. But most of your 'trusted' media has been lying for a long, long time.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  69. MYTHOUGHTS

    I think our country's priorties are in the wrong place. I'm sure several of you heard this before. We as a nation should focus on making life better here on earth, not developing ways to start life somewhere else. What a joke, people can't pay their bills, and are jobless and NASA is probing Mars. F$$% that!

    November 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      The only place we can send a bunch of overpopulation is Mars...

      November 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • IdahoTom

      I'm glad NASA is doing everything to make life of someone like you, who has nothing better to do than to bash people that are earning money for working hard and giving up many of their social life to get there (i.e. scientists and engineers who made the Mars Rover happen) and contributing to probe science that will benefit mankind as a whole and not only "your" pocket, "miserable". Keep up the good work NASA, NASA's subcontractors, sub-subcontractors and more than 200,000+ that's employed because of projects like this. Giving out money and welfare checks does not change anything, doesn't inspire anyone. Giving money to science and technology development is what inspires change in people's life, stimulate ambition, dreams, and mine the curious brains of next generation and leads to a healthy future.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  70. kornwhole

    This latest waste of taxpayer money is yet another nail in the coffin of life on this planet. I extend that beyond coffin nails in the American coffin, because it continues to make focus on looking for other planets to colonize when we have failed miserably to get this one in order. If we were efficient in the usage of our recently past (in the last two hundred years) resourses journies like this one would have been going on as leisure activities 75 years ago. So there it is in a nutshell...why screw up Mars when we can even make out here???

    November 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • kornwhole

      In my last sentence above, I meant to say we CAN'T even work it out on EARTH!

      November 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  71. The King

    This from a country where 45,000 of its citizens die each year because they don't have access to health care due to insurance companies.
    Its official, the USA is too stupid to be a country. Let the UN have your nukes, and await further instruction. Idiots.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      So, according to you, only doctors, nurses and insurance salespeople have a right to make a living? What about us technologists? Don't the children of rocket scientists eat?

      November 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
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