Scientists and engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory are working around the clock this week to monitor Curiosity, the largest-ever Mars rover, which was launched Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“This is the most capable and complex science mission we ever sent to Mars,” Michael Watkins, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission manager, said at JPL on Tuesday. “It's really an amazing machine.”
The mission is expected to last one Mars year, or two Earth years, once it lands at about 5 p.m. Aug. 5. More than 200 scientists around the world are involved in the project, with 250 engineers at JPL working on keeping the rover healthy and ensuring that it lands at its desired location in the Red Planet's Gale Crater.
“We have to do quite a bit of detective work to understand what it was really like 3 billion years ago,” Watkins said. “So we do the best we can to pick a site that looks like it had water.”