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Ticket pic of the week: From California to Mars, another rover's long journey

NASA JPL Mars Rover Curiosity befoire leaving Pasadene 6-11

Regular Ticket readers may have detected here a fondness for and fascination with things space.

First photos of Mercury from orbit. Not many more U.S. space photos like this.

Well, here's the amazing latest: The newest Mars rover, Curiosity, has finished assembly at the JPL-Caltech facility in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., and begun its 14-month, 354 million-mile journey to the red planet.

The rover and its new rocket-powered space crane now reside at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida preparing for their launch around Thanksgiving this year. The space trip will take them 255 days at about 58,000 miles an hour.

You may remember the first two rovers -- Spirit sand Opportunity -- were supposed to last three months after their 2004 landing on the surface of Mars. Spirit was just shut down and Opportunity continues to explore. That pair landed, in effect, in immense inflated bouncing balls that eventually came to rest, deflated, righted themselves and disgorged the rovers.

The new rover, however, weighs about a ton on Earth, too much for the ball strategy. So it has its own rocket sky crane attached, which will maneuver to the best landing site and lower the rover to settle, hopefully not too hard, on all six wheels to begin its far-away explorations.

As usual, the engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have produced an impressive animated video showing Curiosity's planned flight and landing in August 2012. The video is viewable here. Highly recommended.

There is also a diagram here showing the timeline of Curiosity's last few minutes of flight and complex descent.

Bon voyage.

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You won't see space photos like these for long

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech (New Mars rover Curiosity after construction before leaving on its way to Mars; ETA August, 2012).

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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