When it comes to the search for life beyond Earth, most of the focus is in on Mars. But a growing number of scientists are looking at Saturn's moon, Enceladus, instead. Scientists believe the moon has water and organic materials that are the building blocks of life.
Here's the plan: The Mars Science Laboratory, nicknamed Curiosity, will land gently on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PT Sunday. The rover's entry, descent and landing will last for seven minutes. But the first signals about how that all went won't reach Earth until about seven minutes after it's over.
NPR's Joe Palca will be at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to monitor the Mars mission landing Sunday night at 10:30 p.m. PDT. Palca talks with guest host Linda Wertheimer about the Mars landing and purpose of the mission.
A rover poised for a Mars landing late Sunday will explore higher and farther than any before. It's loaded down with experiments designed to test the rocks and atmosphere of Mars. Question No. 1: Was there life there?
Scientist Adam Steltzner worries about whether the Mars rover landing equipment he helped design will work. But in his garden, where he approaches things like the engineer he is, he is firmly in charge.
Landing on Mars is no walk in the park. It requires years of planning, thousands of engineers and, in the case of NASA's Curiosity rover, billions of dollars. NPR's Joe Palca has covered the last four successful landing missions and has some thoughts about process of getting to Mars.
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