NASA has launched the most capable machine ever built to land on Mars. The one-tonne rover, tucked inside a capsule, left Florida on an Atlas 5 rocket at 10:02 local time (15:02 GMT). Nicknamed Curiosity, the rover will take eight and a half months to cross the vast distance to its destination. If it can land safely next August, the robot will then scour Martian soils and rocks for any signs that current or past environments on the planet could have supported microbial life. The Atlas flight lasted almost three-quarters of an hour. By the time the encapsulated rover was ejected a path to the Red Planet, it was moving at 10km/s. Nasa was expecting a first communication from the cruising spacecraft about an hour after lift-off. Engineers can then tell if all the systems came through the stresses of launch in good shape. The rover - also known as the Mars Science laboratory (MSL) - is due to arrive at the Red Planet on the morning of 6 August 2012, GMT. BBC