At 1:31 a.m. EDT Monday, 6 August, the world will be holding its collective breath, waiting to hear that NASA’s latest and greatest Mars rover has safely landed.
Much will be at stake. If Curiosity survives its “Seven Minutes of Terror,” slowing from 21,240 kilometers per hour to a dead stop on the surface, it will demonstrate a brand new and downright scary-looking system for delivering heavy loads precisely where scientists want them. Once on the surface, the biggest, most sophisticated robot ever delivered to another planetary body can take on its primary mission: searching out environments of ancient Mars that life could have inhabited. And not incidentally, Curiosity will be looking for signs that life was indeed around back then. It might even get a whiff of present-day life, if it’s there and spewing methane.
Why will Curiosity dangle from its descent rockets? Why is it going to a 5-kilometer-high mound in Gale crater? And how will it “follow the carbon” in its search for past life?
Explore these questions with leading scientists and expert reporters – read the ScienceLive Chat replay for a full transcription of the consversation.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover in Profile: About the size of a small SUV, NASA’s Curiosity rover is well equipped for a tour of Gale Crater on Mars. This impressive rover has six-wheel drive and the ability to turn in place a full 360 degrees, as well as the agility to climb steep hills. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing on Mars, the rover will investigate whether Gale Crater ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
More information about Curiosity is online at: or
The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter.

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.