NASA launched an Atlas V rocket that contained its Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover for Mars last Saturday.
The rover made its decent into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 10:02 a.m. It detached itself from the Atlas V rocket 45 minutes later.
The Curiosity rover will partake in an eight and a half month trek to the red planet, and approximately 354 million miles between Earth and Mars will be traveled by NASA's rover device.
This trip is projected to last 2 years in Earth time.
NASA Langley researchers have prepared for this mission for close to 10 years. David Way leads the Entry, Descent and Landing team at Langley. Him and his team performed several computer simulations of the mars landing in preparation for the eventual launch.
About 4 million simulated landings were counted since the beginning of the year.
"We model the vehicle in a computer and we practice thousands of times landing on the surface of Mars,” said Way.
NASA's Curiosity rover is the centerpiece of its "Mars Science Laboratory.” The funding of the project reportedly totals $2.5 billion.
The MSL mission's focus is to determine if the Mars is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life. This mission started taking shape in 2003 and its original launch was planned for 2009.
After failing to make its deadline that year, the MSL's total cost was boosted by 56-percent.
MSL project manager Pete Theisinger reported on the rover's current travel status.
"We are in cruise mode. Our spacecraft is in excellent health, and it's on its way to Mars,” said Theisinger.
Theisinger also expressed his thoughts on the success of the mission thus far: "Today's a great day. Very happy guy."
"We all recognize that this is the prologue to the mission - necessary, but not sufficient. We all have our work cut out for us in the next eight and a half months,” Theisinger added.
The video below shows the launch of the Curiosity rover.