The NASA rover Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars sometime tonight. According to CNET, the rover will have touched down before we actually see it happening, but there is a 14-minute time lag for the signal. NASA is covering the event live starting at 11:30 PM ET.
The rover will be searching for signs that Mars could have supported living organisms. Reuters details how NASA expects the journey to the red planet to go.
After a journey from Earth of more than 350 million miles (567 million km), engineers said they were hopeful the rover, the size of a small sports car, will land precisely as planned near the foot of a tall mountain rising from the floor of Gale Crater in Mars’ southern hemisphere.
“We’re rationally confident, emotionally terrified,” Adam Seltzner, leader of Curiosity’s descent and landing team, told reporters at a JPL briefing early on Sunday, as the spacecraft hurtled to within 100,000 miles of its destination – less than half the distance between Earth and the moon.
The chief scientist of NASA has called Curiosity “the most important NASA mission of the decade.”
UPDATE: At 1:32 a.m. ET, NASA confirmed that the rover had landed intact on the surface of Mars. One NASA geologist characterized the landing as “picture perfect.” Below is one of the first images taken by the rover upon its landing:
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