The year 2012, so far, has been very lucky for the scientific community. There have been many remarkable events. First it was the Mars Opposition on March 4 when Mars was closest to the Earth at a distance of 62.6 million miles. Then it was the annular solar eclipse when the familiar disk of the sun turned into a ring of fire. And on July 4, CERN announced that they discovered a Higgs-like particle.
And now it’s NASA with the new that the its rover, Curiosity, launched in November 2011 is all set to land on the surface of Mars on 1:31 a.m. EDT, August 6, 2012. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.”
As Curiosity prepares to make its historic descent to the surface of Mars, the Earth’s inhabitants will be watching… and waiting. Officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity is the largest and most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to explore the surface of another planet. With a landing system specially developed to lower the 900 kg rover safely to the Martian surface, Curiosity will be on its own for seven minutes as it descends towards Mars. There’s nothing controllers at JPL back on Earth can do but wait, and the rest of the world will watch and wait with them.
Once safely on Mars, with its 8-month journey through interplanetary space completed, Curiosity begins its mission of exploration and discovery. It’s a moment for all of Earth to celebrate as this extension of the human spirit of exploration looks out on unknown Martian vistas.
Here you can watch an artist’s depiction of the key events of NASA’s Mars Science Labarotory.
Articles, images, videos and more can be found in the special section of MSL section of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website.
You can also join the Virtual Landing Party at Google+ Hangout.