The rover will take eight and a half months to reach to the “Red Planet”. In figures, on the morning of 6th August 2012 the “Curiosity” (nick name of the rover) will land on Mars.
NASA expects a first communication from the cruising spacecraft at about 11:00 Florida time after which the engineers will be able to check whether or not everything is in working condition.
If it can land safely next August, the robot will then scour Martian soils and rocks for any signs that current or past environments on the planet could have supported microbial life.
The rover is also known as Mars Science laboratory (MSL).
Here are the some key facts about this big mission:
- Project cost at $2.5bn; will see initial surface operations lasting two Earth years
- Onboard plutonium generator will deliver heat and electricity for at least 14 years
- 75kg science payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier US Mars rovers
- Equipped with tools to brush and drill into rocks, to scoop up, sort and sieve samples
- Variety of analytical techniques to discern chemistry in rocks, soil and atmosphere
- Will try to make first definitive identification of organic (carbon rich) compounds
- Even carries a laser to zap rocks; beam will identify atomic elements in rocks