Mars rover: Is all this really necessary?
August 7th, 2012
05:52 PM ET

Mars rover: Is all this really necessary?

Hey Mars! We're back! Hope you don't mind if we cruise around in our scientific SUV to grab some historic data and snap some breathtaking images. Oh, and we might do some Martian doughnuts in your front yard.

Now that the Mars rover Curiosity is safely parked, NASA's unmanned planet crawler appears ready to roll. A car salesman would have a ball selling this beauty. It's loaded with an array of sophisticated cameras, a "rocker bogie" suspension, a robotic arm, 2 gigs of flash memory, a rock-vaporizing laser (!!!!) and a plutonium-fueled power system. It operates by remote control from millions of miles away and has a blazing top speed of 1.5 inches per second.

Sticker price (including delivery): $2.6 billion.

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Filed under: In Space • Mars
August 7th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

Curiosity photos: Caption contest

The Mars rover Curiosity has successfully landed on Mars, and highly-anticipated photos from it are already coming in.

How would you caption these images?

The winner will get a shout-out on Light Years and on our Twitter feed.

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Filed under: In Space • Mars
August 7th, 2012
03:59 PM ET

A comparison of the Mars rovers

Curiosity had a flawless landing on Mars this week, but it's not the first rover to get to the red planet.

Check out our guide to the Mars rovers to learn more about not just Curiosity, but also its predecessors: Spirit, Opportunity and Sojourner!

Source: JPL, NASA

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Filed under: Mars
Space school: the last two days
Montse Cordero, left, and her housemate Alex Carney check out a T-38 training jet.
August 7th, 2012
11:44 AM ET

Space school: the last two days

Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program. Need to catch up? Check out her previous posts here.

Day 9

Today was basically the last day of school. It was our day to get whatever we had left of our work done. At first, it felt like we had way too much work for one day, but as the day progressed, everything started piecing together. All of our different lines of work converged, and we were fine.

We had to do a lot of work on designing our mission patch, 3-D model and presentation, but it all looks pretty good. Tomorrow, we will just give it some final touches, and we will present our project to the head teacher and mentors to get some feedback for the actual presentation on Saturday, so tomorrow is a big stressful day.

After school, though, we got one of the neatest tours so far. Our host took us to Ellington Field, where NASA has its aircraft. We got a tour from Bob Ess, who used to be the manager of the Ares I-X Mission and now works there. They had several T-38s, and we got to take a peek inside them. On the way to see them, we ran into astronaut George Zamka, who was really nice and talked to us for a bit.

The T-38s were absolutely amazing. Then we saw the Super Guppy from a distance. This huge aircraft can carry a big payload, but it definitely looks very weird. After this, we went to see the C-9 aircraft, successor to the Vomit Comet. This plane no longer makes zero-G flights. They leave that to the company Zero G, whose plane we also saw.

To finish, we saw a B-57 plane. It has a huge wingspan, and even though it was designed to be a bomber, NASA uses it for scientific research. We even got a patch from that one!

To continue our amazing evening, we headed to an indoor soccer match with people from Boeing. My team ended up losing (probably my fault!), but it was lots of fun and a good way to get some exercise in.

To end the night, we went flying. A few of the mentors wanted to fly, so our host kindly took them, and we got to go as well. All I can say is that downtown Houston at night is gorgeous from the sky! Now I’m pretty much just looking forward to tomorrow. Hope everything goes well!

Day 10

So, no more school days left. Today was an insanely intense day. The plan was to make the last tweaks to our final presentation and practice it a few times since the actual one is tomorrow.
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August 7th, 2012
10:05 AM ET
August 7th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Watch Curiosity land

NASA has released a stop-motion video with images from the landing of Curiosity, the latest and greatest rover on Mars.

Curiosity landed "flawlessly" on Mars early Monday morning, scientists said.

"The image sequence received so far indicates Curiosity had, as expected, a very exciting ride to the surface," NASA said in a press statement.

Here's the video, representing the last two and a half minutes of descent:

More from Light Years: Why do we love Mars?

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Filed under: Mars

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