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:

354 million
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. 

$2.5 billion
Total cost of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, of which the Curiosity rover is the centerpiece

Over 13,000 
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

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

3 dozen
Missions that the world's space programs have sent to Mars

Number of those missions that have actually succeeded

Sources: Associated Press, Guardian,, Universe Today