Building “Curiosity”

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

Just in time for Halloween you can watch a team of folks dressed in Bunny Suits surrounding a Martian Explorer.

Okay, that may not be exactly what you were expecting.  The “bunny suits” in question are actually clean suits to keep Earthly contaminants from hitch-hiking to Mars.  The explorer is a robotic probe being prepared for a flight to the red planet sometime late next year, with an expected arrival date in August of 2012.  You can see all of the work being done at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory via a live video feed from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, PDT, Monday through Friday.

The rover, named appropriately enough, Curiosity,* can be seen being assembled by the team of technicians sporting the fashion forward, white lab wear designed to supplement the “Clean Room” environment.  The ensemble that constitutes the bunny suit includes a protective smock, hood, booties, and gloves.  If you’ve seen the “Television Room” scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, you may have a pretty good idea of what to expect.  While the crew uniforms may leave a bit to be desired, the Curiosity Rover is equipped with the latest in planetary exploration gear for its trip to another planet, including a geology lab, multiple cameras, a rock-vaporizing laser, and rocker-bogie suspension.

And while most of us can only dream about making the trip to another planet, all of us have the opportunity to send our names. By visiting the Mars Science Laboratory,  you can register to have your name placed on a microchip that will be sent to Mars aboard the Curiosity Rover.

For more information on the Mars Rover project, go directly to the mission’s homepage.

*The rover’s original name was “Mars Science Laboratory.” Catchy, wasn’t it? NASA held a contest to re-name the rover, and 12 year old Carla Ma’s entry of “Curiosity” won!

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