The latest NASA Mars rover exploratory vehicle is set to land on Mars at 1:30 a.m. EST on Aug. 6 to begin science experiments that will help determine if the planet's surface has ever been capable of supporting life.
The next chapter of extraterrestrial exploration on
the surface of Mars will begin early in the morning on Aug. 6 when NASA's
latest Martian lander will deliver the new Curiosity rover for an
experiment-filled science mission.
So far, all is "go" with the mission,
according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is tracking the unmanned
spacecraft as it speeds toward Mars. On board is a high-tech new six-wheeled
rover, named "Curiosity," that will begin a two-year schedule of
experiments and investigation on the red planet.
"Curiosity remains in
, with no significant issues currently in work," said a
mission update Aug. 2 on NASA's Website. "The Mars Science Laboratory
spacecraft remains on a consistent and stable course, well within the limits
required to reach its target landing [site]."
was launched Nov. 26, 2011 from Earth aboard a United Launch
Alliance Atlas V rocket and is scheduled to land the rover on the Mars surface
at exactly 1:31 a.m. EST on Aug. 6, according to NASA.
Live coverage of Curiosity's Landing
be broadcast online on NASA TV beginning
at 11:30 a.m. EST Aug. 6.
The Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration
, which aims to find out whether Mars has ever had an environment that
could have supported life in its smallest forms.
To accomplish its mission, the Curiosity rover, which at about 10 feet long,
nine feet wide and seven feet tall or about the size of a small SUV carries
an assortment of special tools, including a geology lab, a rock-vaporizing
laser and many cameras, to explore the area around the landing site, known as
the Gale crater.
As designed, the 2,000-pound rover and its six-wheel, highly-flexible
chassis will be able to roll over obstacles up to 29 inches high and travel at
speeds up to 295 feet per hour, according to NASA.
To create the needed
electricity that will operate Curiosity on its mission, power will be generated through the radioactive decay of plutonium using a
radioisotope power system. The system is designed to function for at least one
full Martian year, which is about 687 Earth days.
The latest mission follows the very successful NASA
mission that landed two other exploratory rovers, Spirit
, on Mars back in early 2004.
has sent previous landers to Mars
, including two successful Viking missions
in the 1970s.
Curiosity is set to "analyze dozens of samples
drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range
than any previous Mars rover," according to NASA. "Curiosity is a bold
step forward in learning about our neighboring planet, but this
mission does not stand alone
," said Doug McCuistion, director of the
Mars Exploration Program at NASA, in a statement. "It is part of a
sustained, coordinated program of Mars exploration. This mission transitions
the program's science emphasis from the planet's water history to its potential
for past or present life."
The JPL, a division of Caltech, manages the Mars
Science Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
The coolest place to watch the Mars landing, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times
, might be Times
Square in New York
, where the event will be broadcast live beginning at
11:30 p.m. EST Aug. 5. " ¦ there is something so fun and festive about
watching the rover descend in the middle of the night, with a group of fellow
space geeks," the story reported. "The Toshiba Vision Screen that
drifts high above Times Square will display live coverage of the Mars rover
Curiosity as it completes its eight-month journey and lands on the Red Planet. If
you do intend to go, bring your smartphone and headphones. NASA will be
broadcasting the audio portion of its coverage on the online radio station
Third Rock Radio. It can be streamed on smartphones and tablets through the
TuneIn mobile app."