Earth Wants Curiosity Back, But Who's Going to Go Get It?

Even though the Curiosity Rover has only been on Mars for two months, but NASA's already talking about how to bring her home. Or is it him? Either way, everybody's favorite $2.5 billion SUV could be chilling out in the National Air and Space Museum...

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Oct 24 2012, 4:15pm

Even though the Curiosity Rover has only been on Mars for two months, but NASA’s already talking about how to bring her home. Or is it him? Either way, everybody’s favorite $2.5 billion SUV could be chilling out in the National Air and Space Museum within the next two decades. Or the next century. It depends on a lot of things.

Bringing the Curiosity back to Earth is a grand-sounding idea, especially considering that $2.5 billion figure. How to get the thing back isn’t so simple, though. It’s not as if Curiosity can just fire up its engines and fly home. It takes the dang thing a week just to pick up a scoop of dirt! Guess we’re going to have to go pick up the well-funded interplanetary laboratory. “It is my hope that humans will be sent to Mars in the 2030s, or 2040s, and they will be able to walk up to Curiosity and bring it back, as I am sure there is a museum out there that would love to have it,” director of Nasa’s Mars exploration program Doug McCuiston said this week. So would some Mexican drug lords—they love collecting weird stuff.

I digress. A manned mission to Mars has been in the cards for years. It’s an ambitious plan to say the least. With our existing rocket technology, the trip there would take months. The cosmic rays closer to the Sun could have unexpected negative effects on the astronauts who fly out there. It would be mad expensive, like $450 billion kind of expensive. And if something on the spaceship breaks, the astronauts will be a long, long ways from home.

America is not afraid of difficult things, though, so our government is charging ahead with the idea. It’s in constant flux, and as long as humans have been going to space, we’ve hatched no fewer than 15 different major plans to send humans to Mars. The latest comes with presidential approval. In 2010, Barack Obama made a serious promise in a policy speech at the Kennedy Space Center. “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth,” said the president. “And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.” Meanwhile, Congress passed a plan to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars by the 2030s.

We’ll have to wait and see if and how Curiosity makes its way home. And I completely expect things to get weird. I mean, have you even seen Mission to Mars starring Gary Sinise? Things could get real weird.

Image via NASA