Mars Mission Ready To Launch
Life on Mars. Can it, does it exist? Nasa aims to find out with the latest rover mission set to launch this week.
The one-ton rover Curiosity, will shoot to the red planet packing more scientific capability than any ever sent to another
planet. That's how keen Nasa is to find out if we could potentially survive there.
While we count down the five days until launch, the rover is already perched atop the Atlas V rocket awaiting liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch will commence at 10:25 a.m.EST on November 25.
Curiosity will spend two years in the Gale Crater investigating a layered mountain 3 miles high inside that sits within the crater's rim.
"Gale gives us a superb opportunity to test multiple potentially habitable environments and the context to understand a very long record of early environmental evolution of the planet," said John Grotzinger, project scientist for MSL at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
"The portion of the crater where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. Layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water."
The one-tonne rover will land using jet-propelled packs, rather than the gentle parachute-assisted descent of other similar machines.
Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as earlier Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The rover will carry a set of 10
science instruments weighing 15 times as much as its predecessors' science payloads.
What the Curiosity find there could lead to human life on Mars, or at least a greater understanding on what may have caused it to cease there.
Watch: Mars sand dunes on the move.