Next Mars Rover Landing Site Announced

Next Mars Rover Landing Site Announced

NASA announced today that its next Mars rover, Curiosity, will land at Gale Crater on Mars.

The probe, also called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), is scheduled for launch this fall and will land on Mars in August 2012. It will use an innovative method of delivering the lander to the surface that involves a “sky hook” that will lower the spacecraft using cables from its descent stage. The landing site will be at the foot of a layered mountain inside the crater.

NASA has sent several probes to flyby, orbit or land on Mars since the 1960s. The first to land on the surface were Viking 1 and 2 in the 1970s. They both were orbiter-lander pairs, and a signal from the Viking 1 orbiter was sent to Earth to trigger the ribbon cutting ceremony that opened the National Air and Space Museum, the venue for today’s announcement, on July 1, 1976.

Viking was specifically designed to determine if there was life on Mars, but the results were inconclusive. They also were stationary landers and could not move around the surface. Curioisty is a rover and its primary purpose, like Viking, is the search for evidence that life exists or existed on Mars.

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