NASA has unveiled its next post-shuttle project that the agency believes will serve as a precursor mission for human exploration in Mars.
Named Curiosity, the car-sized rover NASA plans to shoot to the red planet will help scientists "study whether the landing region ever had favorable environmental conditions for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed," read the agency's website.
The launch is being prepared for Nov.25 to Dec. 18 this year and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which will contain the rover, is expected to arrive on the Mars’ surface by August 2012.
The exact location the rover will land is Gale Crater, considered to be by dozens of scientists the most favorable place to conduct such experiments.
Gale Crater spans approximately 96 miles in diameter and houses a layered mountain just where the rover will be landing.
According to NASA, the layers of the mountain suggest that it is a surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits which may signal the presence of water and help understand the history of Mars.
So far, missions to Mars haven't been that successful. More than 24 out of 36 missions sent to Mars have been unsuccessful according to Space.com. But if Curiosity makes a landing, it will surly yield a good amount of rich information that'll help us to understand the planet better.
The crater about the size of Connecticut and new Rhode Island combined is named after an Australian astronomer called Walter F. Gale.