In case you haven't been keeping up to date with the latest in NASA-land, we wanted to fill you in. The space agency's Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory, the biggest and best rover to date, is all set to ride an Atlas V rocket to Mars in a little over two weeks' time. This rover (weighing in at 1,980 pounds) is about the size of a small car — far larger than any vehicle previously sent to Mars. Its size will allow it to roll over objects up to 29 inches high, and it will travel at a speed of 295 feet per hour (about 0.06 mph). Curiosity should really be ready — it's been developed for seven years at a cost of $2.5 billion.
Curiosity will be looking specifically for inhabitable environments and trying to determine whether life ever existed there, unlike the Opportunity rover that's been exploring Mars in search of signs of water over the past seven years. It will be accomplishing its goals with the assistance of ten scientific instruments, including a laser that allows it to probe rocks and then analyze their contents using a spectrometer (a tool that identifies materials from the wavelengths of light they emit). Of course, Curiosity will have to successfully land on the surface before it can start exploring Mars; it will descend via parachute and then from what's being called a "Sky Crane." A deputy project scientist for Curiosity said of the landing: "the entire future of the mission depends on everything going right in that seven minutes." A video of your sci-fi dreams below demonstrates what the rover's nearly nine-month journey will entail after its scheduled launch on November 25th at 10:25 AM EST.