The red planet will get a little less lonely this Monday when Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are joined by Curiosity. She’s NASA’s newest, largest, and most advanced rover yet, and one of her most important parts was put together in Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
NASA is hoping that Curiosity will bring us a few steps closer to figuring out whether there was ever life on Mars. The idea is to have her testing the atmosphere, the wind, the soil and the rock for indications of conditions that could’ve once sustained life. She’ll be visiting an ancient crater, where minerals from many different Martian eras lie exposed.
Goddard’s machine, SAM, or Sample Analysis at Mars, is basically a compact, remote-controlled space lab on the rover. Once Curiosity collects Martian materials, SAM will run tests on them, looking for signs of carbon-based (suggesting organic) life forms.
The landing is scheduled for around one a.m. on Monday, and will be played on screens in Time Square. Below, check out Stephen Colbert interviewing one of the scientists behind the project, along with an amazing animation of the landing.