NASA's Mars explorer Curiosity, the most capable robotic rover ever built for taking the measure of a planet, is to launch Saturday morning. Curiosity will analyze the layered terrain in Gale Crater to read in its rocks the history of the environment there.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, which includes the car-sized Curiosity rover, arrived on its Cape Canaveral launchpad on Thursday. But some experts worry about the lack of funding for Mars missions beyond 2013.
The size of a small car, NASA's one-ton Curiosity Mars rover contains twice the number of scientific instruments as its predecessors, plus a drill that will allow it to bore into the Red Planet's rocks.
Super-Earth: The newfound haul of alien planets includes 16 super-Earths, which are potentially rocky worlds that are more massive than our planet. One in particular has captured astronomers' attention because it orbits at the edge of its star's habitable zone, suggesting conditions could be ripe to support life.
NASA's GRAIL mission, which launched Saturday, will plumb the depths of the moon by measuring its gravity field. It should reveal much about the moon's formation and evolution.
Of course they do. Don't be an idiot.
Asteroid Vesta: The Dawn spacecraft last month slipped into orbit around the 330-mile-wide rocky body with little fanfare and began beaming back incredible details of the pockmarked surface that resembles Earth's moon.
Trojan asteroid: NASA has discovered that Earth has an asteroid companion traveling just ahead of our planet as it orbits the sun. This so-called Trojan asteroid could serve as a stepping stone to celestial objects farther afield.
Curiosity rover, formally known as the Mars Science Laboratory, will land at the foot of an 18,000-foot mountain in Gale crater, NASA announced Friday. The mount is expected to yield unparalleled information on where and when life might have existed on Mars.
Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, may have a thin skin of water molecules like parts of the moon. Dawn, an orbiting spacecraft, arrives today to begin orbiting and observing.