Washington, Nov 11: NASA will launch its car-sized Mars rover named Curiosity later this month.
Scheduled to land on Mars in August 2012, the one-tonne rover will examine Gale Crater during its nearly two-year mission, Xinhua reported.
Curiosity will land near the base of a layered mountain and will probe whether the environmental conditions have ever been favourable for development of microbial life.
Curiosity is more than five times heavier than the previous Mars rover, and is equipped to study powdered rock samples, the US space agency announced Thursday. It is now sitting atop an Atlas V rocket awaiting liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10.25 a.m. Nov 25.
‘Preparations are on track for launching at our first opportunity,’ said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ‘If weather or other factors prevent launching then, we have more opportunities through Dec 18.’