"I am absolutely thrilled to have the chance to land this spacecraft on the surface on Mars," MSL chief scientist John Grotzinger, of Caltech in Pasadena, said in a press briefing Wednesday.
The 1-ton Curiosity rover, the heart of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, is slated to touch down inside the Red Planet's Gale Crater on Sunday night (Aug. 5). Excitement about the big event is building among the MSL team, many of whom have been working on the mission for five years or more.
NASA officials call Curiosity the most complex and capable planetary explorer ever launched. It carries 10 different science instruments, including a rock-zapping laser and gear designed to identify organic compounds — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it.
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