Monday morning as Europe is waking up scientists at the Jet Propulsion lab in Los Angeles will be holding their breaths to see if the latest mission to Mars succeeds.
Curiosity is the first fully-fledged mobile science laboratory to be sent to the red planet, weighing over a ton, and powered by a tiny nuclear reactor. There will be no margin for error trying to land NASA’s first astrobiology mission in four decades.
“This lander will be on the surface of Mars in one piece, or many, for seven minutes before the signal gets back to earth to tell us we were successful, or not. We’re looking for the answer to one of the most important questions humanity has ever asked, and that is, is there life on other worlds,” says senior scientist Paul Doherty.
Curiosity, the size of a small sports car, has flown over half a billion kilometres to get here, but it is the final few, and the Mars weather that will determine its fate. The planet is a notorious devourer of spacecraft; only 15 out of 39 missions have been successful to date.
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