article on NASA's latest mission to Mars. Snippets follow...
"Now safely on the ground in the Gale Crater, Curiosity can begin its two-year mission: to find whether Mars has the crucial ingredients that could once have supported life."
"Curiosity is the first rover to use its own wheels as landing gear. The six wheels are half a metre in diameter and as thin as cardboard. They move independently beneath the rover, so that if it had to, it could drive over an obstacle as tall as a coffee table."
"The wheels will have to wait to make their first tracks, however. First, the rover has to stretch its robotic 'arm' and 'neck'. The former carries a suite of instruments including a camera that will be used to peer at rocks, like a geologist using a hand lens. The latter is a mast carrying high-resolution cameras that will reveal panoramas of Curiosity's surroundings, and a laser that will zap rocks from a distance to help reveal their composition."
"Once it gets into its scientific stride, Curiosity will use its onboard chemistry lab to look for organic molecules required as the basic building blocks of life, and chemical energy sources that could have been used by Martian microbes."