|MSL Spacecraft in Excellent Health|
Saturday, November 26th, 2011, 9:56:09 AM PST
A signal from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the new Curiosity rover, was received by officials on the ground shortly after spacecraft separation. The spacecraft is flying free and headed for Mars after separation from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that started it on its journey to the Red Planet. Liftoff was on time at 10:02 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
"Our spacecraft is in excellent health and it's on its way to Mars," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He thanked the launch team, United Launch Alliance, NASA's Launch Services Program and NASA's Kennedy Space Center for their help getting MSL into space.
"We are ready to go for landing on the surface of Mars, and we couldn't be happier," said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist from the California Institute of Technology. "I think this mission will be a great one. It is an important next step in NASA's overall goal to address the issue of life in the universe."
Grotzinger added, "It is important to distinguish that as an intermediate mission between (Mars Exploration Rovers), which was the search for water, and future missions, which may undertake life detection, our mission is about looking for ancient habitable environments."
"Science fiction is now science fact," said Doug McCuisition, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. "We're flying to Mars. We'll get it on the ground... and see what we find."