NASA's Curiosity rover — a car-sized robot mounted on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket — successfully blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday morning at 10:02 a.m. Its task: To determine if microbial alien life could, or ever did, exist on the Red Planet. Here's a look at Curiosity's ambitious and costly "long cruise to Mars," by the numbers:
Miles between Earth and Mars
Months it will take for Curiosity's spacecraft to touch down on the Red Planet. It's projected to land in August 2012.
Total cost of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, of which the Curiosity rover is the centerpiece
Guests on hand to witness the rover's launch from Cape Canaveral
Year the Curiosity's mission originally began taking shape
Year the Curiosity was originally scheduled to launch. "The two-year slip helped boost MSL's overall cost by 56 percent," says Mike Wall at Space.com.
Weight, in tons, of the 10-foot-long, 9-foot-wide rover
Weight, in pounds, of the Curiosity's predecessors ("Spirit" and "Opportunity")
Amount of radioactive plutonium, in pounds, that the Curiosity carries aboard its nuclear generator
Number of scientific instruments the mobile laboratory will use once it touches down on Martian soil, including a laser probe and high-definition cameras
Diameter, in miles, of the rover's projected landing spot, the Gale Crater, which some scientists speculate may have once housed life-giving water, thanks to evidence of clay minerals
Miles that NASA expects the Curiosity rover will have logged on its odometer by mission's end
Years since NASA launched its last Martian rover
Missions that the world's space programs have sent to Mars
Number of those missions that have actually succeeded