Entries in Mars (2)


NASA's 'Made in America' Rover Reaches Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech(NEW YORK) -- The safe landing on Mars Monday by Curiosity, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, was a huge accomplishment for the space program but also for the U.S. companies that contributed to the mission.

Indeed, the entire $2.5 billion mission was “made in America.”

The high-tech parachutes, retro-rockets and even the never-before-used “sky crane” that helped Curiosity come to a stop on Mars -- after an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey -- were all made in the United States.

“It’s only in America, these United States, that we could have pulled this off,” said Adam Steltzner, team leader for the entry, descent and landing of Curiosity.  “There is something uniquely American about what it takes to put a rover like this on Mars.”

U.S. companies in 33 states, from coast to coast, were involved.  They include:

-- Pioneer Aerospace of Windsor, Conn., which made the parachute;
-- Litespeed Bicycles employees in Chattanooga, Tenn., who put down their two-wheelers to help build the rover’s arms;
-- Honey Bee Robotics in New York City, which built the robotic tools that will now help the rover collect rocks and soil.

Even the cameras were from San Diego.

“This really is a human endeavor; it’s not just the U.S.,” said Ann Devereaux, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.  “But God bless America because we did put something on Mars.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Billionaire Entrepreneur Wants to Put Man on Mars

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the Mars rover Curiosity, a $2.5 billion robot the size of a Mini Cooper, touched down last night, one billionaire was already planning the next logical step -- sending humans there.

"I'm confident at this point that it can be done," Elon Musk told ABC’s Nightline in an interview at SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles. "I think we'll be able to send, probably, the first people to Mars in roughly 12 to 15 years. That's my estimate."

Musk, who made his billions as an Internet entrepreneur, wants to bring Silicon Valley ingenuity to a space exploration process that, until recently, has been something only governments tried to tackle.

He entered the space race in 2010 with his company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, reusable spacecraft built with the goal of taking astronauts into space and returning them safely to Earth.

Musk said he is aware he has competitors in this new space race -- one reason why SpaceX does not patent any of the top-secret technology it creates.

"The rockets we're building right now could certainly send probes to Mars, like the Mars rovers and that kind of thing," he said. "But the rockets we hope to build in the future are the ones that could take people and cargo to Mars and establish a Martian base."

And he has big plans for Mars -- not just taking people there, but making it possible for people to thrive there and even establish businesses.

"Mars is the only place in the solar system where it's possible for life to become multi-planetarian," Musk said. "We could make Mars like Earth…it's more than our life raft, it's like backing up the biosphere."

One of the biggest challenges of colonizing the red planet is making the trip affordable for the average American, he said, which is "extremely difficult."

While Musk's outer space ambitions may sound bold, he has a track record. After leaving his native South Africa at 17, he went into online commerce with his brother. One of his companies is known today as PayPal. That company brought him his first billion dollars, which he poured into his electric car company, Tesla, and an energy services company Solar City, two companies now at the cutting edge of renewable energy.

Watch the full story on ABC's Nightline tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio