NASA is set to land its largest, and arguably most important Rover on the surface of Mars early Monday morning. We talked a lot about the Curiosity rover over the last few months as the car-sized scientific exploration device hurtles towards the surface of the red planet. The landing of Curiosity is a huge deal for NASA and stress levels for all involved in the project have to be high.
If something catastrophic should happen to Curiosity during its 7 minutes of terror, there will be a lot of bruised egos at NASA. As of now, everything is on track and looks fantastic for Curiosity touching down on the surface of Mars at 1:31 AM EDT Monday morning. Curiosity is the largest and most expensive probe ever sent to Mars by the US, and the making of the probe has spanned over a decade at a cost of around $2.5 billion.
Curiosity is our best chance so far of finding evidence of life on Mars thanks to the massive nuclear-powered rover's onboard chemistry lab. When Curiosity was on earth it weighed in at 5293 pounds, making it is heavy as many SUVs. Curiosity is much larger than the other NASA probes cruising around on the surface of Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, which have been operating since 2004.
You may recall that Spirit and Opportunity crashed into the surface of Mars under the protection of airbags. Curiosity is too big and heavy to use airbags and will instead use a parachute, rockets, and a flying sky crane to land on the surface of Mars. NASA estimates that there is a 90% chance of a safe landing.
[via ABC News]