- Written by Megan
There is currently a robot the size of a VW Beetle speeding through space towards Mars.
This is NASA's most recent mission to explore the Martian environment, called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) but nicknamed Curiosity.
Curiosity is the largest rover to be sent to the red planet and will investigate many aspects of Mars, including how possible it is for life to be present. Over the years many people have wondered about alien life on Mars, and Curiosity will add to this debate by measuring the amount of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (among other elements) present, as they are thought to be essential for life's existence.
For most of the time since its launch at the end of November last year, Curiosity has been in 'cruise' mode, checking its direction and getting closer to Mars, but soon this will change. When Curiosity gets to 45 days from its landing date of August 5th, intensive preparations begin and the spacecraft enters the 'approach' phase.
These preparations are important for any space mission planning to land on another surface, but especially so for Curiosity, as the landing will use exciting new technology rather than the airbag style landings of previous rovers. Curiosity will be lowered to be Martian surface by a combination of small rockets, a parachute, and a 'sky crane' for the final descent and touchdown.
This will be a nervous but exciting time for all scientists who have been working on Curiosity and it will be well worth watching out for news in August of its safe arrival (or not!).