Handout of artist's concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover (Photo : Reuters)
NASA is banking on its $2.5 billion Mars rover to not crash as it prepares to land on the red planet on Sunday.
NASA officials are waiting at the edge of their seats as the one-ton rover, known as Curiosity, is scheduled to land on Mars' Gale Crater at 1:30 a.m. EDT. The landing will take seven minutes, probably an eternity for NASA.
Like Us on Facebook
After traveling for 8.5 months, the rover will descend to the surface with the help of a rocket-powered sky crane which will be used to slow Curiosity's speed as it is reported to be going as fast as 13,000 miles per hour.
"The Curiosity landing is the hardest NASA robotic mission ever attempted in the history of exploration of Mars, or any of our robotic exploration," said NASA's Associate Administrator for Science Missions John Grunsfeld.
Curiosity is built with 10 instruments aimed to investigate whether Mars is a suitable to host microbial life.
Grunsfield hopes the upcoming arrival of Curiosity will make more people, notably students, to be involved in the mission's progress.
"Given that we are in the heart of summer, there's a real opportunity to achieve tremendous broad public engagement on this adventure on Mars," said Grunsfield. "We're going to engage summer camps, science centers, our NASA centers," Grunsfeld said. "In fact, all around the world, people will be following the Mars Science Laboratory landing and the subsequent adventures of the Curiosity rover."
Curiosity's landing is also planned to be shown on live giant LED television screens in Times Square. The landing will also be simulcast on http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.
In preparation of the mission, NASA is hosting its first multi-center social media event, NASA Social, on Friday, Aug. 3. The simulcast will teach people about Curiosity's mission and involve NASA's seven centers such as those in Cleveland, Ohio; Hampton, Virginia; Houston, Texas; Pasadena, California; Moffett Field, California, and Greenbelt, Maryland.