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Latarski: What will we find on Mars?
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Curiosity is up and gone.

No, this is not about Congress hiding its collective head in the sand trying to avoid finding creative ways to solve problems but the next exploration vehicle on its way to Mars.

It will take eight and one-half months for Curiosity to reach the Red Planet, or approximately the same amount of time it takes to go from Conyers to Alpharetta during a rainy rush hour.

As of this writing, Curiosity is on its way and things seem to running smoothly. Exploring space and other planets is a seriously difficult business. The last Russian effort to Mars saw rockets malfunction and the craft is still orbiting the Earth.
Unless they can find a shadetree mechanic who can hotwire a rocket long distance the Russian spacecraft will spiral into a deteriorating orbit and eventually plunge back to Earth.

And these are the guys our astronauts will have to hitch a ride with until the United States develops a new generation of rockets. Reports are that NASA is also short on astronauts and accepting applications.

Given a lot of really smart people may not be interested in being passengers aboard rockets that have were built not by the lowest bidder but by the lowest bidder in Russia, you have to think NASA may have to lower its standards and start accepting candidates they would have normally ignored.

"So, you want to be an astronaut and you've been driving a forklift for the last 10 years."

"Yes, but it's a fancy forklift with a lot of buttons."

"Welcome to the astronaut program."

Curiosity, officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is about the size of a small car and carries an array of instrument designed to reveal long held secrets about Mars and explore the possibility that he planet once or now supports some type of microbial life.

Who knows what they will find. They might even run across another woman who alleges dalliances with Herman Cain; they seem to be everywhere.

Should hard and valid evidence of life on another planet be discovered, it would rock the world, and no doubt some people's psyche, to know we don't have a corner on the market.

And it doesn't have to be advanced intelligent life because if an alien civilization sent a probe to this planet they might be massively disappointed in what they find.

Naturally there are a million things that can still go wrong: a rock jams a wheel and Curiosity becomes stuck; a wire or computer chip gets jostled on landing and we have failure to communicate; a battery goes dead and will not recharge. Pep Boys just doesn't carry jumper cables that stretch 49 million miles.

One of the interesting questions will be how long Curiosity will last. The previous little rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, functioned far longer than their designed tolerance so it demonstrates that despite the occasional failure the big brain boys at NASA do pretty good work.

Hopefully one day we will be able to send men (and women) to Mars and take the next great step in the exploration of space.

Meanwhile, you have to figure at some point Russia, and perhaps even China, will manage to get a landing on Mars and we will congratulate them on their achievement.

I just hope when they start getting pictures back one will be of Curiosity, sitting peacefully on the Martian plain having done its work.

And it would be nice if that picture included the label that reads, "Made in the U.S.A."

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at