This Saturday, November 26th, NASA will strap its $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) to an Atlas 5 rocket and blast it into space. Eight months later scientists plan to deposit a car-sized robot packed full of cutting-edge technology onto the surface of the planet with a hovering, rocket-powered sky crane. The rover’s name is Curiosity, and at SPACE.com, reporter Mike Wall recounts the time he got to spend with the machine at NASA’s Pasadena Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) back in May.

In the piece, Wall describes what it’s like to be deep in the NASA lab, observing engineers perform open heart surgery on an inverted Curiosity. He also indulges in a little bit of spec geekery, discussing the size of Curiosity’s robotic arm (2.1 meters) and the bore depth on the robot’s drill (5 centimeters). Unlike the two previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, the scientists at MSL are tasking Curiosity with searching for organic molecules, in order to determine whether or not Mars has ever been able to support microbial life. MSL project manager Pete Theisinger acts as Wall's tour guide through the first part of the tour, frankly discussing the goals and challenges of the program. "We're pretty confident this will work," he says. "We've done all we can to test it."

Be sure to check the source link below for the full story at SPACE.com.