NASA's next Mars rover, "Curiosity," was unveiled to reporters Monday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California.
"Curiosity" is about the size of a Mini Cooper and weighs about 2,000 pounds. It has six 20-inch wheels and is far bigger than its predecessors "Spirit" and "Opportunity." It also is equipped with a drill that will be looking at "interesting rocks" in hopes of finding hydrocarbons or any signs that life could have existed at any time on the red planet.
It is set to be launched from Florida in late November, and will take about 10 months to travel to Mars. Scientists hope to gather information from the mission for at least two years.
Getting to see the rover up close meant going through a "clean entry," which meant reporters had to wipe down all equipment and don a "bunny suit," efforts to prevent "earthly contaminants" from attaching to the rover. The suit included a shower cap-type cover for your head, booties to cover your shoes, a hood that covered your neck and snapped under your chin, a mask that hooked onto your ears and another pair of boots that came just to your knees and gloves.
Next was an air shower, and then a quick walk on some tacky paper to catch the last bit of whatever off the bottom of your shoes.
The rover was named in 2009 by Clara Ma, then a 12-year-old student from Lenexa, Kansas, who submitted the winning essay in a nationwide naming contest. For her prize, she was flown to the Jet Propulsion Laboratories, where she not only got to see the rover, but also got to sign the bottom of it. She also has been invited to watch the launch in Florida.