NBC's Tom Costello made a gaffe of planetary proportions on Saturday's Nightly News as he reported on the launch of NASA's latest Martian rover. The correspondent identified the rocket, which blasted the unmanned Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) probe into space for its eight month-plus journey to the fourth planet, as a "Saturn V." This is actually the name of the rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The last Saturn V flew in 1973.
The expendable rocket that actually blasted off on Saturday morning, taking MSL and its Curiosity rover beyond the Earth's atmosphere, is the Atlas V. It is the newest member of a rocket family that has been in service since the 1950s. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 after a modified first-generation Atlas launched his Mercury capsule into space.