Slideshow

Curiosity on Track for Late Weekend Mars Landing — Pictures

Aug. 3, 2012, 4:41 a.m.

Nearly nine months after be­ing launched from Flor­ida, the Curi­os­ity rover is just a few hours from land­ing on Mars.

Hope­fully.

After hit­ting the Mar­tian at­mo­sphere at thou­sands of miles an hour earli­er Monday morn­ing East­ern Time, much fur­ther down to­ward the sur­face, the space probe will still be trav­el­ing at about a thou­sand miles per hour. A para­chute — the largest su­per­son­ic para­chute ever used on an­oth­er world — will then de­ploy, slow­ing the probe to about 250 mph. The rover will even­tu­ally be lowered to the plan­et’s sur­face us­ing a crane sys­tem anchored in the sky by rock­ets. 

Again, hope­fully.

The rover is de­signed to spend two years ex­plor­ing an area in­side a crater that shows prom­ising signs of many of the in­gredi­ents of life, such as past wa­ter — though not life it­self, ac­cord­ing to NASA.

Be­low are some scenes from the Curi­os­ity’s de­vel­op­ment, one of Curi­os­ity’s own first pho­tos (on the way to Mars), and a NASA video show­ing what the des­cent and land­ing might look like.

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