The Curiosity rover prepares to plunge down to Mars.
After an eight-month journey to Mars, success for NASA’s Curiosity rover will hinge on a few crucial moments. The largest and most complicated piece of machinery ever sent to the red planet, Curiosity will begin its seven-minute fall through the wispy atmosphere at 05:24 UTC on 6 August. On Earth, mission scientists will be unable to do anything but wait and hope for the signal that the six-wheeled remote laboratory is resting safely in the feeble Martian sunlight.
If Curiosity lands successfully in Gale Crater, it will eventually trundle over to a 5.5-kilometre-tall stack of layered deposits ringed by water-altered minerals. Ascending the mound, the rover will chart hundreds of millions of years of geology and help researchers to deduce whether life could ever have existed on Mars.