This weekend we will see Curiosity attempt a dramatic Mars landing inside of Gale Crater. Its mission will be to study the Martian rocks to determine how they were formed and try to answer whether conditions on Mars once could have supported life in its most simple form – tiny, microbial cells. The rover’s intended destination after landing is a series of layered rock outcrops on the slopes of Mount Sharp. These layers were spied from orbit only a few years ago and appear to provide a geological record of Mars spanning hundreds of millions of years that Curiosity can spend months touring and reading back to us on Earth. With Curiosity’s hypersonic entry guidance, this is the first Mars rover that could safely land inside Gale and reach these layers.

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