Curiosity: Going to Mars

A model of the Curiosity
NASA/Paul E. Alers, via Flickr

Dianna Anderson and Liz Waid look at the recent journey to the planet Mars. What will scientists find there?

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Dianna Anderson.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It was early in the morning on August 6th, 2012. A room full of scientists were gathered together. They were watching their computers screens and waiting for news. Just after 12 in the morning, the scientists began cheering. They were celebrating. They had done it! They had landed a large piece of scientific equipment - or a rover - on the planet Mars.

Voice 2 

The scientists named this Mars Rover, “Curiosity.” Curiosity is a desire to learn or know about something. And this is exactly what the rover “Curiosity” represents. Curiosity will explore the surface of Mars. It will study its rocks. It will take clear, high quality pictures of the planet. And it will help scientists learn more than ever about Mars. Today’s Spotlight is on the Mars Rover, “Curiosity.”

Voice 1 

People have long been curious about the planet Mars. Interest in the possibility of life on Mars has filled our imaginations. For over a century, people have written hundreds of stories and created many films about this far away planet.

Voice 2 

However, in the 1960s, our understanding about Mars changed forever. During this time, the United States and Soviet space programs began sending small space ships or probes to orbit Mars. For the first time, people around the world saw pictures of Mars from orbit.

Voice 1 

In the 1970s, our understanding of Mars changed again. China and the United States landed the first ever space ships on the surface of Mars. These were great achievements in science and exploration.

Voice 2 

However, after the 1970s, human exploration of Mars slowed. For the next 25 years, no one tried to land another rover on Mars. But in 1997, the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, tried to land on Mars again. During that year, they landed a rover but lost it three months later.

Voice 1 

Since that time, both the United States and the United Kingdom have tried to land on Mars. The United States has landed two rovers since 2003 - the Spirit and the Opportunity.

Voice 2 

But the Mars Rover “Curiosity” is the most complex Mars Rover yet. It is about the size of a car. This is much larger than the other rovers. It also has the most complex scientific equipment ever made.  NASA began building the “Curiosity” rover in 2008. It took almost five years to complete. And the Curiosity Rover cost $2,500,000,000. Now that it is on Mars, the Curiosity rover will spend almost two years collecting information.

Voice 1 

It took “Curiosity” over six months to travel from Earth to Mars. Once it reached Mars, it completed a complex series of movements to land on the surface. First, it moved out of orbit around Mars. It fell from the sky to the surface of the planet using a parachute - a large piece of cloth designed to catch air and slow the fall. Then, the spacecraft separated into two parts. One part is the rover. The other part is a large machine that held the rover in place until it safely landed. After landing, this part separated completely from the rover - landing kilometers away on the surface of Mars.

Voice 2 

When “Curiosity” landed, it was a great day of celebration. However, it was only the beginning of a long process of work. Now, the scientists at NASA will spend the next 23 months guiding the rover. They will direct its path on the surface, and examine the information it collects.

Voice 1 

“Curiosity” is the first rover with high quality cameras. It can take pictures from the surface of Mars and send them to Earth quickly. It only takes 14 minutes for the image to travel millions of kilometers from Mars to Earth. These detailed images will help scientists learn more about the planet than ever before.

Voice 2 

One of the things the rover is looking for is information about possible life on Mars. Neil DeGrasse-Tyson is a scientist and space expert from the United States. He talked with the National Public Radio news organization about “Curiosity” and its search for life. He said:

Voice 3 

“It has everything. It is very ambitious - it hopes to achieve much. It is not going to look for life as we know it on Earth. But it is able to look for the early signs of life - elements that would tell us something about the conditions on the surface.”

Voice 1 

To do this, “Curiosity” looks at layers in the planet’s rocks. It examines these layers using a new technology called “ChemCam” or chemical camera. The ChemCam has a laser that breaks the rock into smaller pieces - using small bursts of energy. As the lasers breaks open the rock, the scientists can look at how it breaks and what it looks like inside.  Each rock has different layers with different elements. This information will help scientists discover if there was ever life on Mars.

Voice 2 

“Curiosity” will continue to work for many months. And so will the NASA scientists. This project will be a lot of work for the scientists. They have to work long hours - sometimes even through the night. Monte Martin is a science writer for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. He explains,

Voice 4 

“They must sacrifice some of their time on Earth and live on Mars time. Mars time is always changing. Working on this time schedule is more difficult than just always working at night. For months, the scientists will be away from family and friends. They will concentrate only on Mars. While the rover’s work is only supposed to last 23 months, it could go much longer.”

Voice 1 

It will be a long and difficult time for the scientists working on the Mars Rover. But, many people think it is worth the work. They believe it is important to keep learning - and that includes learning even more about Mars. As Neil DeGrasse-Tyson told The Atlantic magazine:

Voice 3 

“We can make the future we dream real. To do so, we need creative scientists, engineers, and technology inventors to make it happen. If the people around you are not dreaming about tomorrow then we will all move back into the ancient stone age.”

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it on the Internet at You can also find a link on the script page of this program to a video that shows the landing of “Curiosity”. This program is called, “Curiosity: Going to Mars.”

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Would you want to go to Mars? Do you think this kind of scientific exploration is important?


Avatar Spotlight
said on November 05, 2013

very interesting program I love cience it has solved many problems’ humanity thank you spotilght.

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said on November 06, 2013

I’m interested in researching about the planet Mars which is far away from our earth. I wonder if there a life existed a long time ago and what probably were its forms. I admire the possibility of taking the pictures on the surface of Mars and sending them to the earth. The scientists’ working and finding on a space rover really is not easy, however, it gives the better, new understanding the planet Mars to all the people.
Thanks for the excellent article!

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 12, 2013

Ohhh Now I understood the difference between curiosity and the robot on the moon. Thanks a lot.

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said on November 21, 2013

This is amazing characteristic. I hope that in the near future, scientist will discover many new things in the Planet Mars as well as create modern Robot to replace human doing dangerous jobs.

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said on July 14, 2015

thank you that fixed your website.

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said on August 27, 2015

Hi Friends.
Interesting topic about the capacity of humans to do everything, but i don’t understand how the people spend many money (2500000000,00) in search life or water on other planets, people on poor countries need our help to decrease the poverty, starvation.  If the governments, ONU, OMS, etc concentrate its efforts in solve the problem in our planet and make a best place for all we don’t need to invest or search water in other planet. See you.

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said on August 27, 2015

@PakaAnka, I think they wanna look for a planet that is similar to the Earth and then they will take human to that planet. This is scientists’ dream.

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on September 17, 2015

Since I have been arriving to the United States until now, I want to work for aerospace industry. I try my best to learn English language, and then I studying an engineering design technology program in the Renton Technical College.

I hope that after I finish my program, I have a good job. GOD bless everybody.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 12, 2018

Curiosity is, in my opinion, the best attitude to whom desire to learn something. It’s the main tool that characterizes a successful student. A curious student ever says: I need to learn, I want to learn, I’ll learn…

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 16, 2019

I think all knowledge is important to humanity, as my grandparents and parents constantly said: knowledge does not occupy a place. The pursuit of knowledge must be the struggle of a lifetime for every man or woman living on earth. I admire the wonderful work of NASA scientists, researchers and workers in general.
Thank you so much for the program.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on October 23, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer to the questions below
Location São Paulo city SP Brazil
Wednesday 23, October 2019

Dear Dianna Anderson and Liz Waid

I want to thank you for producing and writing more one great article for us brazilian people and others around the World.
Question 1 - Would you want to go to Mars?
Answer 1 - Yes, I would.
Question 2 - Do you think this kind of scientific exploration is important?
Answer 2 - Yes, I do. It is a very important scientific exploration because we ordinary people have the curiosity to know everything around the planets.
Yours regards,
God bless you
Severino Ramos