NASA Curiosity Mars rover begins its 354m mile journey

NASA's Curiosity rover has begun its journey into space, the centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory project. Blasting off at 10:02 am EST from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the $2.5bn rover will take nine months to travel the 354m miles between here and Mars, complete with an array of scientific instruments along with a nuclear battery to power them all.

The Curiosity rover and other aspects of payload were launched on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, successfully sending a signal back to NASA shortly after separation. "Our spacecraft is in excellent health and it's on its way to Mars," Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager said of today.

Whereas previous Mars missions focused on discovering water on the red planet, Curiosity will look for signs of ancient habitable environments. More information on the launch, the Curiosity rover and the separation from earlier today in the videos below.

Mars Science Laboratory Launch:

Mars Science Laboratory Separation Video:

Mars Science Laboratory robot concept: