NASA Preps Biggest-Ever Mars Rover

Can planet sustain life? Curiosity will search for clues
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2011 9:10 AM CST
NASA Preps Mars Science Laboratory 'Curiosity'
In this 2011 artist's rendering, a "sky crane" lowers the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars.   (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It’s “a Mars scientist's dream machine”: NASA is getting ready to launch its largest-ever Mars rover on Saturday. It’s not just big—it’s “the largest and most complex piece of equipment ever placed on the surface of another planet,” the agency’s Mars boss tells the AP. Curiosity, as the 7-foot-high rover is called, is equipped with a jackhammer and laser arm to break through rocks as it probes Martian soil.

The $2.5 billion machine will attempt to figure out whether Mars has ever been capable of sustaining life. Scientists have found evidence of methane on the planet, and they’re wondering how it got there, the New York Times reports. “I like to say it's extraterrestrial real estate appraisal,” an expert tells Officially called the Mars Science Laboratory, the rover will be lowered to the planet’s surface using a crane-like system similar to what may be used in the future to land humans on the Red Planet. Of course, no aliens have been discovered yet, the White House says. (More Mars rover stories.)

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