NASA launches super-size Mars rover to red planet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) ? The world’s biggest extraterrestrial explorer is on its way to Mars.

NASA on Saturday launched the six-wheeled, one-armed robotic rover, nicknamed Curiosity. An unmanned rocket blasted off with the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral.

The journey to Mars will take 8? months and cover 354 million miles.

Curiosity weighs a ton and is the size of a car. It’s a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, and analyze them right on the spot. There’s a drill as well as a stone-zapping laser machine.

Curiosity will spend two years looking for evidence that Mars may once have been ? or still is ? suitable for microbial life.

The mission costs $2.5 billion.

Thousands of NASA guests converged on Kennedy Space Center for the launch.