Each and every moment in human history is a story--it’s a story of perseverance, hope, and the will to move forward; but now, even after a thousand-year history of astounding progress and innovation, the human race is moving forward into one of the most significant eras of its entire history. In 1959 the Soviet Union landed the first man-made object on the surface of the moon. Ten years later in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr were the first human beings to set foot on the moon. Twelve moon walkers and dozens of space probes later, we are stepping forward again, and this time with a goal that defies imagination: the search for life on other planets.

The Mars rover Curiosity is a magnificent testament to the ingenuity of human minds working together. The size of a small SUV, Curiosity carries three different cameras, four spectrometers, two radiation detectors, and environmental and atmospheric monitoring stations. Each instrument was built in complete sterilization and uniquely designed to learn about the surface of Mars.

Set to reach the Gale Crater only eight and a half months after its departure, it will begin its search for conditions favorable for microbial life and test whether the methane that is so prominent is from a biological or geological source. Curiosity has six wheel drive, can turn 360 degrees in place, and is designed climb steep hills as well as roll across flat ground. Its video cameras take images in high definition, and these will be relayed back across the solar system to scientists waiting eagerly on Earth. In addition, it will collect and analyze seventy different samples of soil and rock, and determine whether the ubiquitous methane in the atmosphere is biologically or geologically produced. Curiosity will send images, video, and information back to Earth while in transit and on the planet.

As it flies through space on its more than 300 million mile journey, Curiosity has already begun to work. Monitoring radiation from deep within its shell, scientists hope to gain knowledge about the effects of space travel on human subjects, with the end goal of manning a mission to Mars by 2030. With one of the most accurate interplanetary injections so far, Curiosity is projected to reach Mars in early August, 2012.

The human race has never ceased to move forward. Countless innovations, countless geniuses, and countless hours of seeming futile labor brought us to this point, the point at which we can actually leave this planet. This is not a time to back down, but to keep thinking, to keep inventing, and to keep moving forward. Let’s inspire the next generation to not just travel in space, but to live there.