BALLARAT will have the chance to view the landing of NASA’s $2.4 billion dream machine, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, this afternoon.
The Ballarat Observatory is opening its doors to the public free of charge from 3pm so people will be able to witness history in the making.
Observatory manager Judith Bailey said NASA is streaming the landing on Mars live from its website.
“We will have it up on our large screen for people to observe and ask questions through the landing,” she said.
Mars Science Laboratory and rover, Curiosity – designed to hunt for soil-based signatures of life and send back data to prepare for a future human mission – is due to land safely at 3.31pm today, Australian time.
That will be about 14 minutes after the touchdown actually happens due to the time it takes for spacecraft signals to travel from Mars to Earth.
Ms Bailey said hopefully it will be a success.
“They’ve landed smaller rovers on Mars before but, Curiosity is the largest of its kind and quite complex,” she said.
The nuclear-powered rover was built for planetary exploration, weighing in at one tonne and carries a complex chemistry kit to zap rocks, drill soil and test for radiation.
Curiosity is on a mission to discover whether there once life on Earth’s closest neighbour.
Scientists have found signs of water there, hinting that some form of life was once likely, even though Mars is now a dry place with a thin atmosphere, extreme winters and dust storms.
Ms Bailey said the rover was travelling on time and quite well so far.
“It is planned to land on the Gale crater on Mars and we hope it all goes well but, if not it will be an adventure and something never to forget for those watching,” she said.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory curiosity rover will arrive on Mars today and the Ballarat Observatory will broadcast it live.
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