reply to post by Miccey
Here you go, an image showing the flight path of the MSL:
It might seem like a good idea: launch a space craft and send it heading to Mars in the opposite direction, so that it can get there faster.
However, there are some problems doing that. Your space craft is going to get up to at least 17,000 Mph to just orbit the Earth in LEO. To leave
Earth's orbit, it will need to be accelerated to 22,000 Mph. Remember also that the sun is going to be pulling on it, so we need it to have
sufficient velocity to leave Earth's orbit around the sun and head outwards away from it.
Now here is the problem with meeting Mars in a more "head on" path: Delta V. Here we have MSL moving at about 22,000 Mph. Meanwhile Mars is moving
at about 50,400 Mph (or 14 miles a second) around the sun.
Because the MSL is going as fast as it is, and Mars is approaching it at a speed that is twice that, it would be as if the MSL is moving at 77,000 Mph
towards Mars. Much to fast to try and slow it down with air breaking due to how thin the martian atmosphere is. The MSL would have had to carry a lot
more fuel to do some sort of braking manuever to slow it way down, and that much fuel added would have taken even more fuel to lift off from Earth and
send it on it's way.
To put it another way, let's imagine you are in a car and have a bag of donuts you want to pass over to a person in another car. You're on a two
lane high way.
You are headed in one direction going 60 Mph, and your friend in the other car is headed in the opposite direction at 120 Mph. Try to imagine passing
off that bag to your friend at those speeds.
Now try it this way: Both of your cars and speeds are headed in the same direction, but when he passes you, the relative speed between you is only 5
Mph. Much easier to hand him that bag of donuts.
Here is a PDF file for working out the math on the MSL's flight path in case you are interested:
Curiosity's Flight Path To Mars