The Mars Science Laboratory launched Nov. 26, 2011, and spent the next eight months traveling to the Red Planet. While on the way, the Curiosity rover and its descent stage were safely tucked in this chicken-pot-pie-shaped aeroshell, designed to protect it from radiation and from the first stages of atmospheric entry.
Curiosity’s radiation-sensing equipment picked up plenty of signals from a massive solar eruption in mid-January. The Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, was designed to measure radiation on Mars, but NASA turned it on for the long journey there just to see what it would find. Scientists are still parsing through the data from the solar flare, which could help set baselines for possible radiation exposure to humans when we head to Mars someday.