The U.S. space agency NASA has launched the world's biggest extraterrestrial explorer toward Mars on a search for evidence of past or present life.
It will take 8 1/2 months for the "Curiosity" rover to reach Mars.
The primary goal of the mission is to see whether Mars might have been hospitable for microbial life -- or might even still be conducive to life now.
No actual life detectors are on board, but the instruments will search for organic compounds.
NASA says no previous Martian rover has been so sophisticated or capable.
compiled from agency reports