Engineers have started driving the Curiosity rover in reverse on Mars in a bid to reduce wear on the robot's six wheels, which show damage from climbing over sharp rocks on its trek across the red planet.

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Planners in charge of plotting the course of NASA's Curiosity rover, which is trekking toward a massive mountain on the red planet, have selected a route with fewer rock hazards in lieu of alternate paths that could exacerbate damage to the robot's wheels.

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Reminiscent of the iconic pale blue dot photograph from the Voyager 1 space probe, the Curiosity Mars rover has sent home another cosmic postcard showing the Earth hanging over the rugged Martian horizon as an evening star.

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A high-resolution camera mounted on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has collected imagery showing the Curiosity rover's trek across Gale Crater toward a three-mile-high mountain.

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Exploring an ancient lakebed on Mars -- a now-vanished, fresh-water lake that increasingly confirms the past habitability of the red planet -- NASA's Curiosity rover is looking for areas where erosion may have uncovered pristine layers in which organic compounds -- and possibly remnant traces of life -- might still be found, scientists said Monday.

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Science observations by the Curiosity Mars rover are on hold pending tests to pin down the cause of an unexpected voltage change that was detected last Sunday, NASA said in a status report Wednesday. There is no evidence the anomaly is related to a computer reboot earlier this month that triggered protective "safe mode" software.

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NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is hitting the road again Thursday, setting its sights on arriving at the base of a 3.4-mile-high Martian mountain next spring after recovering from a software fault that halted science observations for nearly a week.

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Contrary to earlier measurements from Earth and orbiting sensors, scientists analyzing data from the Curiosity rover have concluded the Martian atmosphere contains no methane, dashing hopes the red planet may still harbor microbial life.

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Ten months after a spectacular landing in Gale Crater, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is wrapping up a second drilling campaign, mission managers said Wednesday, and the science team is gearing up to begin the long trek to Mount Sharp, a towering mound of layered rock 5 miles away that is expected to shed new light on the red planet's history and habitability.

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THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013
A detector on NASA's Curiosity rover has confirmed previous research findings on the hazards of space radiation on the way to Mars, scientists announced Thursday, and future astronauts making the trip will need protection from the danger.

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MONDAY, MAY 27, 2013
Back in action after a month out of contact with Earth, NASA's Curiosity rover is renewing its quest to excavate a definitive signal of organic molecules - the building blocks of life - from the red planet's regolith and bedrock after a first taste of Martian soil turned up inconclusive results.

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Sidelined by computer glitches since late February, NASA's Curiosity rover is on track to resume research on Mars after exiting a science-halting safe mode, officials said Tuesday.

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Analyzing powdered samples drilled from the interior of a sedimentary rock, the Curiosity Mars rover has detected traces of the chemicals and compounds necessary for a habitable environment in the red planet's distant past, scientists reported Tuesday.

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Work to carry out what amounts to an electronic brain transplant aboard the Curiosity Mars rover -- a complex sequence of steps to switch operations to a backup flight computer -- is continuing this week amid ongoing analysis to figure out how to resolve memory corruption discovered last week in the rover's active computer.

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Space radiation may be to blame for corrupted memory used by the Curiosity Mars rover's flight computer, resulting in software glitches that interrupted the flow of science data Wednesday and prompted ground controllers to switch over to a redundant computer Thursday, NASA officials said.

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The Curiosity rover's powerful impact drill has successfully collected its first subsurface sample, about a tablespoon of powdered rock that will be fed into the spacecraft's on-board laboratory instruments for detailed chemical analysis, project officials said Wednesday.

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NASA's Curiosity rover used its hammering, rotating drill Friday to extract the first powdery samples from within fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, giving scientists their first chance to analyze material from inside a rock on Mars.

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And take a look at photos of the drill site.

Six months after dropping to the surface of Mars suspended under a rocket pack resembling a sci-fi creation, NASA's Curiosity rover is preparing to drill into a slab of rock holding clues of the planet's watery past.

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The Curiosity Mars rover has found intriguing veined rocks just below tilted cross-bedded layers indicating water once flowed and "percolated" through fractured terrain near the landing site in Gale Crater, scientists said Tuesday, additional evidence of a watery past on the red planet.

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At the top of the Curiosity rover's to-do list next year is the first use of its rock-boring drill, allowing scientists to examine samples from inside Martian rocks with the robot's instrument suite.

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A sharp-eyed camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has located the impact scars left by components jettisoned from the Curiosity rover on its hellish descent to the Martian surface in August.

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Despite widespread speculation about a potentially significant discovery on Mars, the Curiosity rover's first detailed look at a martian soil sample with an instrument capable of detecting organic compounds has not found any "definitive" signs of materials that play key roles in biological processes on Earth, scientists said Monday.

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NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has sparked the curiosity of the media and the blogosphere, with widespread speculation as to whether one of its laboratory instruments has made a major discovery in the quest to find out if the red planet ever hosted a habitable environment.

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The Curiosity rover has resumed driving after spending several weeks at a patch of sandy soil known as Rocknest, and controllers are looking for a rock suitable to test the robot's hammering drill for the first time. Here's the latest status report from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"NASA's Mars rover Curiosity completed a touch-and-go inspection of one rock on Sunday, Nov. 18, then pivoted and, on the same day, drove toward a Thanksgiving overlook location.

Last week, Curiosity drove for the first time after spending several weeks in soil-scooping activities at one location. On Friday, Nov. 16, the rover drove 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) to get within arm's reach of a rock called "Rocknest 3." On Sunday, it touched that rock with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) on its arm, and took two 10-minute APXS readings of data about the chemical elements in the rock. Then Curiosity stowed its arm and drove 83 feet (25.3 meters) eastward toward a target called "Point Lake."

'We have done touches before, and we've done goes before, but this is our first 'touch-and-go' on the same day,' said Curiosity Mission Manager Michael Watkins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 'It is a good sign that the rover team is getting comfortable with more complex operational planning, which will serve us well in the weeks ahead.'

During a Thanksgiving break, the team will use Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) from Point Lake to examine possible routes and targets to the east. A priority is to choose a rock for the first use of the rover's hammering drill, which will collect samples of powder from rock interiors.

Although Curiosity has departed the Rocknest patch of windblown sand and dust where it scooped up soil samples in recent weeks, the sample-handling mechanism on the rover's arm is still holding some soil from the fifth and final scoop collected at Rocknest. The rover is carrying this sample so it can be available for analysis by instruments within the rover if scientists choose that option in coming days."

Weather sensors on the Curiosity rover have picked up signs of dust devils brushing by the six-wheeled robot, researchers said Thursday, but the rover's cameras have not yet caught sight of the passing whirlwinds.

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For the first time since landing on Mars in August, NASA's Curiosity rover has used its most powerful instrument to analyze soil, sifting for life-supporting chemicals with a labyrinth of ovens and spectrometers, scientists announced Tuesday.

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Starting this week, the team operating the Curiosity rover has switched to more regular hours, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Since Curiosity's landing on Aug. 6, engineers and scientists have worked on "Mars time" to match the day at the rover's operating post inside Gale crater.

The rover's operators are now shifting to a work schedule between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Pacific time after compressing the time needed to plan Curiosity's daily activities.

"People are glad to be going off Mars time," said Richard Cook, project manager for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project, which operates Curiosity. "The team has been successful in getting the duration of the daily planning process from more than 16 hours, during the initial weeks after landing, down to 12 hours. We've been getting better at operations."

Most of the scientists who were stationed at JPL since the Aug. 6 landing are returning to their home institutions and will participate in planning sessions via teleconferences and Internet connections, according to NASA.

Delivery of the first soil collection to Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument could occur as soon as this weekend.

The latest status report from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

After three months working on "Mars time," the team operating NASA Mars rover Curiosity has switched to more regular hours, as planned.

A Martian day, called a sol, is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, so the team's start time for daily planning has been moving a few hours later each week. This often resulted in the team working overnight hours, Pacific Time.

Starting this week, most of the team's work will stay within bounds of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., PST. Compressing the daily planning process for rover activities makes the switch possible.

"People are glad to be going off Mars time," said Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project, which operates Curiosity. "The team has been successful in getting the duration of the daily planning process from more than 16 hours, during the initial weeks after landing, down to 12 hours. We've been getting better at operations."

A simultaneous change this week begins more dispersed operations for the scientists on the rover team. The team includes about 200 JPL engineers and about 400 scientists, mostly from other institutions. More than 200 non-JPL scientists who have spent some time working at JPL since Curiosity's landing on Aug. 5, 2012 (Pacific Time; Aug. 6, Eastern Time and Universal Time) will continue participating regularly from their home institutions throughout North America and Europe. The team has been preparing in recent weeks to use dispersed participation teleconferences and Web connections.

"The phase that we're completing, working together at one location, has been incredibly valuable for team-building and getting to know each other under the pressure of daily timelines," said Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Project Scientist Joy Crisp, of JPL. "We have reached the point where we can continue working together well without needing to have people living away from their homes."

The operational planning this week is focused on getting a first sample of solid Martian material into the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument.

On the mission's Sol 89 (Nov. 5, 2012), the other analytical instrument inside the rover, Chemistry and Mineralogy, or CheMin, dumped out the second soil sample it had finished analyzing. That second sample into CheMin came from the fourth scoop of soil that Curiosity's robotic arm collected at a site called "Rocknest." Also on Sol 89 came confirmation that SAM had completed an overnight analysis run on a blank sample cup in preparation for receiving a soil sample. Plans call for the fifth scoop at Rocknest to provide samples going into both SAM and CheMin in coming days.

Scientists on Friday reported the Curiosity rover's first whiffs of the Martian atmosphere have turned up no sign of methane, an object of fascination for many scientists due to its ramifications on the search for life on Mars.

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The Curiosity rover has spent the week collecting imagery for a self-portrait, analyzing soil samples with its on-board laboratory, and studying the Martian atmosphere.

On Wednesday, Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager collected shots for a self-portrait of the rover parked at "Rocknest" inside Gale Crater at a feature known as Glenelg.

NASA announced on Tuesday that initial soil samples analyzed by the rover's CheMin instrument showed the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii.

"We had many previous inferences and discussions about the mineralogy of Martian soil," said David Blake of NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., who is the principal investigator for CheMin. "Our quantitative results provide refined and in some cases new identifications of the minerals in this first X-ray diffraction analysis on Mars."

The scoop of soil analyzed by CheMin came from the Rocknest region where the rover is still parked.

"Much of Mars is covered with dust, and we had an incomplete understanding of its mineralogy," said David Bish, CheMin co-investigator with Indiana University in Bloomington. "We now know it is mineralogically similar to basaltic material, with significant amounts of feldspar, pyroxene and olivine, which was not unexpected. Roughly half the soil is non-crystalline material, such as volcanic glass or products from weathering of the glass."

Bish said, "So far, the materials Curiosity has analyzed are consistent with our initial ideas of the deposits in Gale Crater recording a transition through time from a wet to dry environment. The ancient rocks, such as the conglomerates, suggest flowing water, while the minerals in the younger soil are consistent with limited interaction with water."


NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shook a scoopful of dusty sand inside its sample-handling mechanism on Sol 75 (Oct. 21, 2012) as the third scrubbing of interior surfaces of the mechanism. The rover team is instructing the rover to deliver a sieved sample from this scoopful -- the mission's fourth -- onto Curiosity's observation tray on Oct. 22 and plans to analyze another sample from the same scoopful with the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument this week.

Curiosity collected this fourth scoop of soil on Sol 74 (Oct. 20). A later scoop will become the first delivered to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. While continuing with scooping activities at the "Rocknest" site, the rover also has been examining surroundings with the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mast Camera (Mastcam) instruments, and monitoring environmental conditions with the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instruments of its science payload.

Sol 75, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 8:58 a.m. Oct. 22, PDT (11:58 a.m., EDT).

After using two soil samples to scour away any earthly contaminants from inside the Curiosity rover's sample acquisition system, a third scoop of fine-grained martian soil was dumped into an on-board laboratory instrument Wednesday for the mission's first detailed "hands-on" mineralogical analysis, the project scientist said Thursday.

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The team operating Curiosity decided on Oct. 9, 2012, to proceed with using the rover's first scoop of Martian material. Plans for Sol 64 (Oct. 10) call for shifting the scoopful of sand and dust into the mechanism for sieving and portioning samples, and vibrating it vigorously to clean internal surfaces of the mechanism. This first scooped sample, and the second one, will be discarded after use, since they are only being used for the cleaning process. Subsequent samples scooped from the same "Rocknest" area will be delivered to analytical instruments.

Investigation of a small, bright object thought to have come from the rover may resume between the first and second scoop. Over the past two sols, with rover arm activities on hold, the team has assessed the object as likely to be some type of plastic wrapper material, such as a tube used around a wire, possibly having fallen onto the rover from the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's descent stage during the landing in August.

Sol 63 activities included extended weather measurements by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, or REMS. The Sol 63 planning also called for panoramic imaging by the Mast Camera, or Mastcam, in the early morning light of Sol 64, before uplink of Sol 64 commands.

A Sol 61 raw image from the right Mast Camera shows the location from which Curiosity's first scoop of soil was collected.

Sol 63, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 1:03 a.m. Oct. 10, PDT (4:03 a.m., EDT)


On Sol 56 (Oct. 2, 2012), Curiosity drove about 20 feet (6 meters) westward to reach a ripple of sand and dust deposited by the wind at a soil patch called "Rocknest." This site is a potential target for the rover's first use of its scoop, which the team will be evaluating over the next few days.

Activities on Sol 56 also included monitoring the environment around Curiosity with the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument, and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS). A raw image from Curiosity's front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam) after the Sol 56 drive, showing a ripple at Rocknest.

Sol 56, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 8:26 p.m. Oct. 2, PDT (11:26 p.m. EDT).


On Sol 55 (Oct. 1, 2012), Curiosity finished observations at the "Bathurst Inlet" rock target it had examined with instruments on the arm. Then the rover completed a drive of about 77 feet (23.5 meters) to arrive near a patch of wind-deposited soil called "Rocknest," which is a potential target for the first scooping activity. This drive brought the total distance driven during the mission to about 0.30 mile (0.48 kilometer).

Sol 55 activities prior to the drive included use of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on Bathurst Inlet.

A Sol 55 raw image from Curiosity's right Navigation Camera shows the calibration targets for the Mast Camera (Mastcam) and ChemCam, and the rover's UHF antenna, in the foreground, and the lower slope of Mount Sharp in the distance.

Sol 55, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 7:46 p.m. Oct. 1, PDT (10:46 p.m. EDT).


On Sol 54 (Sept. 30, 2012), Curiosity used two tools at the end of its arm to inspect two targets on an angular rock called "Bathurst Inlet." The rover had driven 7 feet (2.1 meters) the preceding sol to place itself within arm's reach of the targets.

Curiosity took close-up images of Bathurst Inlet with its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and took readings with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) to identify chemical elements in the target. MAHLI also inspected another location within reach, "Cowles."

A Sol 54 raw image from Curiosity's left Navigation Camera showing the arm at work at Bathurst Inlet.

Sol 54, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 7:07 p.m. Sept. 30, PDT (10:07 p.m. EDT).


On Sol 52, Curiosity drove about 122 feet (37.3 meters) eastward toward the Glenelg area, using visual odometry to assess and adjust for any wheel slippage. The mission's total distance driven has now reached 0.28 mile (0.45 kilometer). The drive brought the rover to a few meters away from an outcrop being considered for an approach drive and subsequent examination with instruments at the end of Curiosity's arm: the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the Mars Hand Lens Imager.

Another priority in coming sols is to reach a location for first use of the rover's capability to scoop up soil material and deliver a sample of it into laboratory instruments.

Activities on Sol 52 included the usual monitoring of the environment around Curiosity with the Radiation Assessment Detector, the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument, and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station. A raw image from Curiosity's left Navigation Camera, showing the ground near the rover after the Sol 52 drive.

Curiosity continues to work in good health. Sol 52, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ends at 5:48 p.m. Sept. 28, PDT (8:48 p.m. EDT).


NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, slowly nearing its initial science destination where multiple types of terrain come together, has found outcrops of conglomerate rocks made up of eroded gravels that scientists believe were transported across the floor of Gale Crater by a "vigorous" flow of ankle-to-hip-deep water in the distant past. Read our full story.


On Sol 50 (Sept. 26), Curiosity completed its longest drive yet, rolling about 160 feet (48.9 meters) eastward toward the Glenelg area. The mission's total distance driven has now reached one-quarter mile (416 meters). A priority in coming sols is to identify a location for first use of the rover's capability to scoop up soil material and deliver a sample of it into laboratory instruments.

Activities on Sol 50 included pre-drive imaging of a target near the morning location and post-drive imaging of the new surroundings and the sky. See a raw image from Curiosity's left Navigation Camera, with tracks from the drive in view.

Curiosity continues to work in good health. Sol 50, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ends at 4:29 p.m. Sept. 25, PDT (7:29 p.m. EDT).


On Sol 49 (Sept. 25), Curiosity drove about 102 feet (31 meters), bringing the mission's total amount of driving to about 1,204 feet (367 meters). The rover science team's current focus is on getting Curiosity to the Glenelg area, and the drive took the rover eastward toward that destination.

Activities on Sol 49 before the drive included observation of a wheel track. After the drive, cameras on the mast observed the sky, as well as terrain at the rover's new location. See a post-drive raw image from Curiosity's right Navigation Camera.

Curiosity continues to work in good health. Sol 49, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ends at 3:49 p.m. Sept. 25, PDT.


NASA's rover Curiosity touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time on Sept. 22, assessing what chemical elements are in the rock called "Jake Matijevic."

After a short drive the preceding day to get within arm's reach of the football-size rock, Curiosity put its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument in contact with the rock during the rover's 46th Martian day, or sol. The APXS is on a turret at the end of the rover's 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), on the same turret, was used for close-up inspection of the rock. Both instruments were also used on Jake Matijevic on Sol 47 (Sept. 23).

The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which shoots laser pulses at a target from the top of Curiosity's mast, also assessed what chemical elements are in the rock Jake Matijevic. Using both APXS and ChemCam on this rock provides a cross calibration of the two instruments.

With a final ChemCam laser testing of the rock on Sol 48 (Sept. 24), Curiosity finished its work on Jake Matijevic. The rover departed the same sol, with a drive of about 138 feet (42 meters), its longest yet. Sol 48, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 3:09 p.m. Sept. 24, PDT.


Status Update from JPL: In a day of abbreviated activities due to timing of downlink relays, Curiosity used cameras on Sol 44 (Sept. 20) to observe early-morning atmospheric conditions, inspect a nearby rock, and image rover hardware.

The rover team has decided to edge Curiosity closer to a nearby rock called Jake Matijevic, which is likely to become the first that the rover will touch with instruments on its robotic arm. Jacob Matijevic (1947-2012) was a leading engineer for all three generations of NASA Mars rovers.

The arm was deployed on Sol 44 to take some images of rover hardware and to assess the extended arm's sag. A raw image from the Navigation Camera shows the arm's shadow on the ground near the Jake Matijevic rock. The arm was subsequently re-stowed in preparation for a short drive to approach the rock.

Curiosity continues to work in good health. Sol 44, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ends at 12:31 p.m. Sept. 20, PDT.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has driven some 357 feet from its landing site on the floor of Gale Crater -- 269 feet as a martian crow might fly -- on its way to an intriguing area about five times farther away where three different types of rock come together. Project officials said Thursday the rover continues to chalk up near perfect scores during extended checkout operations, with detailed robot arm tests on tap over the next week or so.

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Mars scientists have released a new, update image of the Curiosity rover and its landing component scattered around the landscape from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

In this product, cutouts showing the rover and other hardware or ground markings from the landing are presented across the top of a larger, quarter-resolution overview keyed to the full-resolution cutouts.

Check it out!

Amid its rock-zapping duties and choreographed test drives, the Curiosity rover's weather station is logging sharp temperature swings, wind gusts and pressure changes to create an enduring record of Martian climate.

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NASA's Curiosity rover, giving earthlings a glimpse of its ultimate target, has beamed back spectacular high-resolution photos of the rugged foothills of Mount Sharp, showing a khaki-colored landscape marked by towering hills, gaping canyons and sand dunes reminiscent of the American southwest, scientists said Monday.

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In a major milestone, the six-wheel Curiosity Mars rover took its first baby steps Wednesday, rolling about 15 feet forward, performing a slow 120-degree pirouette and then backing up eight feet to prove the $2.5 billion science lab is, in fact, mobile and ready to rove.

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With a broken wind sensor the only problem of any note aboard the Curiosity Mars rover, engineers planned to uplink commands overnight for an initial test drive, a short 10-foot move and a turning reverse maneuver to check out the robotic science lab's ability to roam its Gale Crater landing site.

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The Curiosity rover successfully test fired a powerful laser at a nearby rock Sunday, blasting it with rapid-fire million-watt pulses that vaporized the outer layers for spectroscopic analysis.

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The Curiosity rover likely will spend the rest of the year monitoring the martian weather, collecting radiation data and analyzing rock and soil samples near its landing site in Gale Crater before it heads for its ultimate target, the rugged foothills of Mount Sharp just four-and-a-half miles, but many months, away, the project scientist said Friday.

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Engineers successfully updated the Curiosity rover's computer software over the weekend and plan initial tests of the mobile science lab's ability to drive across the martian terrain within the next week or so, project officials said Tuesday.

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In a phone call to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, President Obama congratulated the Mars Science Laboratory team Monday for the successful landing of NASA's Curiosity rover, joking that engineers should let him know ASAP if the spacecraft spots any martians.

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The electronic brain controlling NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has far less horsepower than the microchips typically found in a modern smart phone.

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1710 GMT (1:10 p.m. EDT)
This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by Curiosity. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.
1705 GMT (1:05 p.m. EDT)
Curiosity continues to behave flawlessly, completing all of the planned activities for the now-completed workday. Several of the science instruments were checked with no anomalies reported, steps were performed in preparation for the upcoming software transition to the surface package and the rover cameras acquired more imagery of the landing area.
The Curiosity Mars rover, stepping through a complex post-landing checklist in near flawless fashion, successfully raised its main camera mast and beamed down razor-sharp navigation camera views of its surroundings in Gale Crater that provide a hint of the spectacular vistas to come when the craft's high-resolution cameras swing into operation, engineers said Wednesday.

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1030 GMT (6:30 a.m. EDT)
More spectacular images from the navigation camera showing the landscape at Gale Crater. Don't miss this view or this one.
0930 GMT (5:30 a.m. EDT)
The first image from Curiosity's navigation camera has been received. The camera is located atop the main camera mast, which appears to have been raised to its upright position.
1730 GMT (1:30 p.m. EDT)
Here's some specific shots from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery. The Curiosity rover shows the stirred up surface around the vehicle from the descent engines.

The parachute and back shell are located about 2,000 feet away from the rover. The sky crane's disposal site is about 2,100 feet away. And the discarded heat shield is nearly 4,000 feet from Curiosity.

1718 GMT (1:18 p.m. EDT)
The orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured an image of Curiosity's landing site. It shows the rover, its heat shield, parachute, back shell and sky crane.
1706 GMT (1:06 p.m. EDT)
The Mars Science Laboratory deployed its high-gain communications antenna overnight. The paddle-shaped structure will be used for higher bandwidth transmissions via X-band in direct-to-Earth communications. That link will be established tomorrow after slightly changing the antenna pointing.

Curiosity is asleep at this hour having completed its Sol 2 workday. The most recent telemetry via the orbiter data-relay overpasses indicated the rover was in "surface nominal mode."

Coming up tomorrow, the remote-sensing mast will be erected atop the rover. The structure has the high-quality cameras on it.

1515 GMT (11:15 a.m. EDT)
Curiosity's first color image of the Martian landscape was released overnight. It comes from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at the end of the stowed robotic arm, and was taken with a transparent dust cover in place but it is still possible to see the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The dust cover will be opened later in the mission before Curiosity starts exploring Mars in earnest.

And there's the remarkable shot of the heat shield falling away taken by Curiosity during its descent to the surface. The image was obtained by the Mars Descent Imager instrument known as MARDI and shows the 15-foot diameter heat shield when it was about 50 feet from the spacecraft. It was obtained two and one-half minutes before touching down on the surface of Mars and about three seconds after heat shield separation.

MARDI also captured a view of dust being kicked up from the descent-rockets before touchdown. At this point, Curiosity is about 70 feet above the surface. This dust cloud was generated when the Curiosity rover was being lowered to the surface while the Sky Crane hovered above. This is the first image of the direct effects of rocket motor plumes on Mars and illustrates the mobility of powder-like dust on the Martian surface.

1720 GMT (3:20 p.m. EDT)
The nuclear-powered Curiosity Mars rover survived its nail-biting plunge to a pinpoint landing on the floor of Gale Crater in remarkably good shape, engineers said Monday, setting down on a flat, wind-swept plain littered with uniform gravel-like rocks and firm soil.

Read our full story.

1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)
The next event will be a 12 noon EDT news briefing to update the status since landing. And a definite highlight will be the unveiling of an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looking down at Curiosity's descent before touchdown.

"Yes, we do have an image of Curiosity's descent. Wow. Can't wait for all to see!" the MRO HiRISE camera team tweeted this morning.

0804 GMT (4:04 a.m. EDT)
The communications pass is over. The next occurs around 2:30 p.m. EDT.
0754 GMT (3:54 a.m. EDT)
Another new image has been received showing what appears to be rim of Gale Crater in the distance.
0751 GMT (3:51 a.m. EDT)
Telemetry is being received in Mission Control from Curiosity via Mars Odyssey.
0715 GMT (3:15 a.m. EDT)
Here's the full statement by President Obama on Curiosity's landing

"Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.

"The successful landing of Curiosity - the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet - marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.

"Tonight's success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best - push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight's success reminds us that our preeminence - not just in space, but here on Earth - depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.

"I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality - and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover."

0656 GMT (2:56 a.m. EDT)
Preliminary data shows the rover touched down on the benign side of expectations, all appeared nominal, says Adam Steltzner, the leader of the Entry, Descent and Landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The rover looks as if it touched down on a "nice, flat" surface.

"Beautiful, really beautiful."

0640 GMT (2:40 a.m. EDT)
"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.

"This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."

0635 GMT (2:35 a.m. EDT)
In an unparalleled technological triumph, a one-ton nuclear-powered rover the size of a small car was lowered to the surface of Mars on the end of a 25-foot-long bridle suspended from the belly of a rocket-powered flying crane late Sunday to kick off an unprecedented $2.5 billion mission.

Read our full story.

0626 GMT (2:26 a.m. EDT)
"Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history," says President Obama.

"I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality."

0550 GMT (1:50 a.m. EDT)
Here is the plan for the coming days on Mars for the Curiosity rover. Monday's workday will see deployment of the high-gain communications antenna. The camera-laden mast will be erected atop the rover on Tuesday. Aliveness testing on the laboratory instruments and shooting a panorama of the landing site are planned for Wednesday. Downlinking that imagery will consume Thursday that otherwise serves as a "quiet day" for the rover. A major transition of on board flight software from the landing package to the mission program, already pre-loaded on Curiosity, begins Friday.
0547 GMT (1:47 a.m. EDT)
"It is a huge day for the nation," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden says.
0542 GMT (1:42 a.m. EDT)
Stop by our Facebook page and leave a comment about today's landing!
0540 GMT (1:40 a.m. EDT)
It is total jubilation, celebration and relief in Mission Control. Hugs, handshakes and tears all around.
0538 GMT (1:38 a.m. EDT)
The Mars Odyssey orbiter has concluded its data-relay link with Curiosity for now.

The next communications session with the rover will occur in about two hours when Odyssey makes its next pass over the landing site and more images from Curiosity will be transmitted back to Earth. Then that will be it for tonight.

Tomorrow has three main orbiter communications opportunities starting with Odyssey around 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT) and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at 2:40 p.m. EDT (1840 GMT). Curiosity has a direct-to-Earth communications potential at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT).

0535 GMT (1:35 a.m. EDT)
The first photograph from the surface is a low-resolution thumbnail image from a hazard-avoidance camera on the rear of the rover. It shows wheels on Mars!
0534 GMT (1:34 a.m. EDT)
Thumbnail images from Curiosity cameras now beaming back to Earth via Mars Odyssey.
0533 GMT (1:33 a.m. EDT)
Touchdown is confirmed! The most technologically advanced rover ever dispatched to another world has arrived for its two-Earth-year mission of exploration and adventure at the base of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater after a 352-million-mile trek from Earth.
0532 GMT (1:32 a.m. EDT)
TOUCHDOWN! The Mars Science Laboratory has brought Earth's Curiosity to probe the habitability of the Red Planet!
0531 GMT (1:31 a.m. EDT)
Now just moments away from delivering the $2.5 billion roving scientific laboratory on another planet.

In the final half-minute before landing, Curiosity will be lowered by nylon cords from the rocket-powered descent stage for the daring "sky crane" maneuver that will set the rover gently onto the planet's surface at 1.7 mph, if all goes well. The rover will be spooled down 25 feet under the descent stage, dangling on a bridle and an umbilical cord feeding data up to the jetpack for the last 66 feet of altitude and mere 12 seconds before touchdown.

Also, the rover's wheels and suspension will extend and lock into position.

At the moment of touchdown, the cabling between Curiosity and the jetback will be cut and the rocket engines will carry the stage safely away from the rover for disposal.

0531 GMT (1:31 a.m. EDT)
BACK SHELL RELEASE! The aerodynamic top of the entry pod with attached parachute suspended above just separated from Curiosity and its rocket-powered jetback. The spacecraft should be about a mile in altitude, descending at 180 mph.

The 8 descent engines will be roaring to life in the third phase of slowing the rover to a safe touchdown speed after entering the Martian atmosphere six minutes ago. Arranged in four pairs in the corners of the stage, these are the first throttleable engines used in a Mars landing since Viking in 1976. They can produce up to 742 pounds of thrust each in burning an available supply of 853 pounds of hydrazine fuel on board.

0530 GMT (1:30 a.m. EDT)
With the heat shield gone and the bottom of the rover now exposed, the Mars Descent Imager should start recording video facing the direction of travel. Also the terminal descent sensor radar package located on the sky crane can begin taking speed and altitude measurements.
0529 GMT (1:29 a.m. EDT)
HEAT SHIELD SEPARATION. The protective shielding structure on the base of the entry pod has been jettisoned, its job now complete in delivering this sophisticated robot to Mars.
0529 GMT (1:29 a.m. EDT)
CHUTE DEPLOY! The supersonic parachute to continue slowing Curiosity has been deployed to inflate 51 feet in diameter. The orange and white chute has 80 suspensions lines 165 feet long. The canopy is make of nylon fabric and heavier polyester for the high stress area near the vent in the apex. This chute is designed to withstand drag forces up to 65,000 pounds.
0527 GMT (1:27 a.m. EDT)
Standing by for deployment of the parachute as descent moves beyond the super-heated entry phase. A few seconds before the chute is unfurled, six 55-pound entry balance masses made of tungsten will be ejected to put the center-of-gravity back to the axis of symmetry.
0527 GMT (1:27 a.m. EDT)
Telemetry now flowing via Mars Odyssey.
0526 GMT (1:26 a.m. EDT)
As the entry vehicle flies a series of S-shaped turns through the atmosphere with banks to one side and reversals to the other to maneuver itself on a precise corridor to landing zone in Gale Crater, 8 small thrusters on the back shell are available to adjust the angle and direction of lift to prevent Curiosity from traveling too far downrange. The flight computer is controlling all of these decisions autonomously on board with inputs from the inertial measurement unit's data on deceleration and direction.
0525 GMT (1:25 a.m. EDT)
Peak heating is being felt on the spacecraft's heat shield, generating an expected temperature of 3,800 degrees F. The moment of peak deceleration occurs about 10 seconds after maximum heating, as the vehicle feels 10 or 11 Gs.
0525 GMT (1:25 a.m. EDT)
Guided entry has been initiated.
0524 GMT (1:24 a.m. EDT)
ENTERING THE ATMOSPHERE! The "7 minutes of terror" has begun as Curiosity slows from its current 13,200 mph to 1.7 mph at touchdown! The craft is protected by its 14.8-foot-diameter heat shield, larger than the ones used on Apollo, and is covered with Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) material.
0521 GMT (1:21 a.m. EDT)
The navigation prediction shows MSL is a scant 232 meters from the target after 352 million miles traveled.
0520 GMT (1:20 a.m. EDT)
A "nice, hot signal" being received from Curiosity back in Mission Control.
0519 GMT (1:19 a.m. EDT)
Heartbeat tones are being received from the spacecraft directly to Earth.
0518 GMT (1:18 a.m. EDT)
Altitude 685 miles, closing at 12,036 mph. Interaction with the atmosphere begins 78 miles up.
0517 GMT (1:17 a.m. EDT)
The spacecraft has reoriented itself, performing the "turn to entry" maneuver to get into the proper position to hit the atmosphere. And two 165-pound tungsten weights that served as balance masses for the trip to Mars were jettisoned. That accomplishes the necessary shift in the center-of-mass so the craft can generate lift and steer itself through the atmosphere for a "guided entry" to reach a precise landing site with such a heavy rover.
0516 GMT (1:16 a.m. EDT)
Mars Science Lab lands in 15 minutes. Velocity has accelerated to 11,750 mph.
0515 GMT (1:15 a.m. EDT)
Now 9 minutes from entry interface. Small thrusters on the back shell are nulling out the two-rotation-per-minute spin that Mars Science Lab has been enduring throughout the cruise.
0514 GMT (1:14 a.m. EDT)
CRUISE STAGE SEPARATION! The first major event for Curiosity's arrival at Mars just occurred successfully. The aluminum, donut-shaped cruise stage that provided the solar power, maneuvering thrusters and radiators during the interplanetary voyage from Earth has been jettisoned to prepare the spacecraft for entry into the Martian atmosphere.
0513 GMT (1:13 a.m. EDT)
All systems are nominal aboard Odyssey and the orbiter is ready for landing support.
0511 GMT (1:11 a.m. EDT)
Pyrotechnic commands have been enabled. Powering off the cruise stage hardware is underway.
0509 GMT (1:09 a.m. EDT)
Mars Science Lab hits the atmosphere in 15 minutes. Velocity has accelerated to 11,438 mph.
0507 GMT (1:07 a.m. EDT)
The Mars Odyssey spacecraft has completed its reorientation for coverage of Curiosity's landing. It appears that has gone well, setting up for live data-relay all the way to touchdown.
0504 GMT (1:04 a.m. EDT)
Distance to Mars is 4,263 miles, closing at 11,001 mph. Time to entry into the atmosphere is 20 minutes.
0501 GMT (1:01 a.m. EDT)
Mars is beckoning. Time to touchdown now 30 minutes. Here we go.
0459 GMT (12:59 a.m. EDT)
The good luck peanuts are being opened in Mission Control!
0456 GMT (12:56 a.m. EDT)
A poll of console operators for spacecraft subsystems verifies all looks good. Power, propulsion, thermal, avionics, software, fault protection, data management, telecommunications and attitude control are green across the board.
0444 GMT (12:44 a.m. EDT)
The first big milestone is jettisoning the cruise stage. That is coming up in a half-hour at 1:14 a.m. EDT.
0439 GMT (12:39 a.m. EDT)
Distance to Mars is 8,267 miles, closing at 9,728 mph. Time to entry into the atmosphere is 45 minutes.
0431 GMT (12:31 a.m. EDT)
One hour, just 60 minutes from Curiosity touching down on Mars! The rover currently is 9,446 miles from the planet, closing at 9,572 mph.

At the landing time, it will be mid-afternoon -- around 3 p.m. local -- in Gale Crater. It is late winter there in the southern hemisphere, about two thirds of the way from winter solstice to spring equinox.

0414 GMT (12:14 a.m. EDT)
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team reports the spacecraft is ready to record data from Curiosity. And Odyssey is being oriented for its live data-relay on the descent.
0412 GMT (12:12 a.m. EDT)
The uplink path to command the spacecraft has been severed for landing. Curiosity is on her own.
0408 GMT (12:08 a.m. EDT)
The flight control team has completed its poll for a "GO" to command the uplink transmitter be turned off.
0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)
Ninety minutes from landing! Curiosity is 13,793 miles from Mars, closing at 9,093 mph as the planet's gravity tugs on the spacecraft.
0346 GMT (11:46 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Now one hour, 45 minutes from landing. Distance is 15,901 miles, closing at 8,951 mph.
0331 GMT (11:31 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Now only two hours from touchdown. The current distance is 17,970 miles, closing at 8,818 mph.

The life expectancy of Curiosity is one full Martian year, which is 687 Earth days and 669 Martian days. Each day, or sol, on Mars is 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35.244 seconds long.

0325 GMT (11:25 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Our primary Mission Status Center page is streaming the straight broadcast from JPL with live mission audio.

You can switch to watch NASA's "show" on our alternate status page.

0302 GMT (11:02 p.m. EDT Sun.)
As Curiosity closes to within 22,000 miles of the Red Planet, the spacecraft is now nearer to Mars than geosynchronous communications satellites orbit around Earth. Current velocity is 8,689 mph. Time to touchdown 2 hours, 29 minutes.
0231 GMT (10:31 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Three hours left to go! Curiosity is 26,135 miles from Mars, closing at 8,555 mph.

Adam Steltzner, the leader of the Entry, Descent and Landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said today that he was "rationally confident, emotionally terrified."

"This team ... has worked really hard for the better part of a decade, and the fruits of that labor get put to the test tonight," he said. "It's a little anxiety provoking. But I will say I slept better last night than I have slept in a couple of years, because she's kind of on her own now. When I look back on the hard work that we've done, I believe the team has done everything that we can to deserve success tonight, although as we all know, we can never guarantee success."

0145 GMT (9:45 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Reporters from around the world have descended on NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to cover tonight's landing of Curiosity. Check out the scene in this photo gallery.
0131 GMT (9:31 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Now four hours and 34,167 miles from Mars, closing at 8,431 mph.

Mars Science Laboratory will hit the atmosphere at 1:24 a.m. EDT for its high-speed descent to the ground. Everything must go properly over the course of seven minutes to put the car-sized Curiosity rover onto the surface at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

"Those seven minutes are the most challenging part of this entire mission," said Pete Theisinger, the mission's project manager at JPL. "For the landing to succeed, hundreds of events will need to go right, many with split-second timing and all controlled autonomously by the spacecraft. We've done all we can think of to succeed. We expect to get Curiosity safely onto the ground, but there is no guarantee. The risks are real."

"The Curiosity landing is the hardest NASA mission ever attempted in the history of robotic planetary exploration," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"During the descent through the atmosphere, the mission will rely on bold techniques enabling use of a smaller target area and a heavier robot on the ground than were possible for any previous Mars mission. Those techniques also advance us toward human-crew Mars missions, which will need even more precise targeting and heavier landers," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters.

0031 GMT (8:31 p.m. EDT Sun.)
Curiosity is just five hours from putting weight-on-wheels at Mars. The current distance is 42,181 miles, closing at 8,343 mph.

"We have three different signals we would use to confirm touchdown and we need all three of those things to look right before we say so," explained Adam Steltzner, the leader of the Entry, Descent and Landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "One of those is a message from the spacecraft that says 'I touched down, and this is the velocity I touched down at and where I think I am.'

"The rover has an inertial measurement unit, a gyro and an accelerometer set, and we look at that stream to say the rover's not moving at all, that signal says 'I think I'm on the ground and I'm not moving.' And the third is, we wait a safe period of time and confirm we're getting continuous UHF (radio) transmission. And frankly, that's there to make sure the descent stage hasn't fallen back down on top of the rover. When all three of those signals are positive, we declare touchdown confirmation."

2331 GMT (7:31 p.m. EDT)
Now six hours from touchdown. The current distance is 50,241 miles, closing at 8,285 mph, an increase of 75 mph in the past hour as the planet's gravity tugs on the spacecraft.

The Curiosity rover, the six-wheeled robot the size of a car, has a mass of 1,982 pounds. It is 9 feet, 10 inches long, 9 feet wide and stands 7 feet tall once the camera mast is erected. Its wheels are 20 inches in diameter and the instrument-laden arm is 7 feet long. The craft is powered by plutonium in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, a switch to nuclear away from the solar panels used on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers to provide longer life and greater capabilities.

The 10 science instruments include the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Chemistry and Camera, Chemistry and Mineralogy, Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, Mars Descent imager, Mars Hand Lens Imager, Mast Camera, Radiation Assessment Detector, Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, and Sample Analysis at Mars.

"We're about to land a rover that is 10 times heavier than (earlier rovers) with 15 times the payload," says Doug McCuistion, director of Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters. "Tonight's the Superbowl of planetary exploration, one yard line, one play left. We score and win, or we don't score and we don't win.

"No matter what happens, I just want the team to know I am really proud and privileged to have worked with these guys and gals. They're amazing. They've done everything humanly possible to make this happen. If we don't do it and we're not successful, we'll pick ourselves up, we'll dust off, we'll do it again. The science is on the surface. We need to keep going back and that's the plan. But I think we're going to stick the landing."

2231 GMT (6:31 p.m. EDT)
Seven hours and counting until landing. The inbound rover currently is 58,382 miles from Mars, closing at 8,237 mph.

The Mars Science Lab vehicle as it flies through space right now, the rocket-powered jetpack and Curiosity tucked neatly inside the descent pod, is 14 feet, 9 inches in diameter and 9 feet, 8 inches in height. It is slowly spinning at 2 RPM. Once the cruise stage is jettisoned tonight at 1:14 a.m. EDT, the entry vehicle will have a mass over 5,200 pounds when it hits the Martian atmosphere at 13,200 mph.

2131 GMT (5:31 p.m. EDT)
Now 8 hours from touchdown. The current distance is 66,617 miles, closing at 8,209 mph.

Navigators for Mars Science Lab stationed on Earth 154 million miles away have the spacecraft targeting a box 7 miles tall and 1.7 miles wide for entry into the Martian atmosphere tonight. It is like threading the eye of the needle in space for the rover, as Curiosity heads for a preset landing ellipse at the base of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater.

"Excitement is building while the team is diligently monitoring the spacecraft," said mission manager Brian Portock. "It's natural to get anxious before a big event, but we believe we are very well prepared."

The landing site is targeted for 4.6 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude. That is equivalent on the globe to just north of Australia, when comparing to a spot on Earth.

2031 GMT (4:31 p.m. EDT)
Curiosity is 9 hours from landing. The spacecraft is 74,961 miles from Mars, currently closing at 8,181 mph.
1914 GMT (3:14 p.m. EDT)
Now 10 hours away from cruise stage separation just before atmospheric entry. MSL is 85,825 miles from Mars, currently closing at 8,153 mph.
1655 GMT (12:55 p.m. EDT)
With about 110,000 miles left to go, Mars Science Lab is a half-day away from landing on the Red Planet. "We are ready to head," says mission manager Brian Portock.

The final opportunity to perform a trajectory course correction was waived off this morning since the vehicle is on the precise track, the spacecraft batteries are fully charged, the backup flight computer has been configured and the Deep Space Network tracking sites have a "full set of bars" in communications with MSL.

"For tonight, the atmosphere looks perfect. Although it might get a little dusty after we land, we've got great weather for landing," said Adam Steltzner, Entry, Descent and Landing phase lead. "The team is ready, the spacecraft is ready and it's to the fates."

Live coverage of landing begins tonight at 11:30 p.m. EDT (0330 GMT). Touchdown is expected at 1:31 a.m. EDT (0531 GMT).

"We are rationally confident, emotionally terrified and we're ready for EDL," Steltzner said.

Curiosity is 10 times heavier than any previous rover and carries 15 times the payload capabilities.

"In the first few weeks after landing, we will be ramping up science activities gradually as we complete a series of checkouts and we gain practice at operating this complex robot in Martian conditions," said Richard Cook, deputy project manager for Curiosity.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover, still attached to its drum-shaped interplanetary cruise stage, closed in on the red planet Saturday, steadily accelerating under the increasing tug of the planet's gravity as it streaked toward a precisely targeted plunge into the martian atmosphere overnight Sunday for a high-stakes descent to the surface.

Read our mission preview story.

Navigators today determined there was no need to execute the available trajectory correction maneuver available two days before landing. The flight remains "consistent and stable," controllers report.

As of 3:35 p.m. EDT today, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft was approximately 468,000 miles from the Red Planet, or a little less than twice the distance from Earth to the moon. It is traveling at about 8,000 mph, a speed that will gradually increase in speed to about 13,200 mph by the time of atmospheric entry.

No major issues are being work as Curiosity nears the finish line on its 352-million trek from Earth to Mars. There were no real-time activities planned today between Mission Control and the spacecraft.
The Mars Science Laboratory is running on its autonomous entry, descent and landing timeline, as the spacecraft remains in good health for Sunday night's arrival at the Red Planet.

Earlier this week, Mission Control completed a memory test on the vehicle software, configured the craft for approach mode and enabled pyrotechnic devices.

TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2012
In a $2.5 billion gamble, a nuclear-powered Mars rover the size of a small car will attempt a pinpoint landing near the base of a 3-mile-high mountain overnight Sunday to search for the building blocks of life and evidence of past or present habitability.

Read our mission preview story.

The question is straight forward: how to get a car-size rover safely to the surface of Mars? And not just anywhere, but to a very precisely defined bullseye on the floor of a broad crater and within roving distance of a three-mile-high mountain.

Read our sky crane overview.

To help scientists and engineers follow the action 154 million miles away, the trajectory of the Mars Science Laboratory was set up to make sure the rover's descent to the surface of the red planet occurs within view of three orbiting satellites.

Read our communications story.

SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2012
Firing its thrusters for a mere six seconds early Sunday, NASA's Mars-bound Curiosity rover added more precision to its flight path for a high-stakes entry, descent and landing next Monday morning.

It was one of six mid-course correction opportunities for the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft since launching atop an Atlas 5 rocket on Nov. 26. Two more chances are available Saturday and Sunday, the last coming just 9 hours before landing.

Read our full story.

TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2012
After fears of losing the ability to hear in real-time whether the Curiosity rover lands successfully on the Red Planet next weekend, NASA Tuesday maneuvered its decade-old Mars Odyssey orbiter into position to relay the touchdown news as it happens.

Read our full story.

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2012
Unexpected problems with a NASA science satellite in orbit around Mars could delay receipt of telemetry from the agency's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory rover during the spacecraft's dramatic seven-minute descent to the surface Aug. 6, officials said Monday.

While the issue with the orbiting Odyssey satellite will have no impact on the rover's ability to successfully execute its autonomous entry, descent and landing sequence -- half jokingly dubbed "seven minutes of terror" by project engineers -- it could mean an additional period of nail biting before confirmation the so-called "sky crane" landing technique actually worked.

Read our full story.