THE next Mars landing will be worth making time to watch. It may be the last of its kind.
Scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet on 5 August via a nail-bitingly intricate, autonomous procedure, NASA's Curiosity rover will undertake an unprecedented two-year hunt for signs of alien life. Costing $2.5 billion, Curiosity - known formally as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) - is the biggest, boldest, most expensive Mars mission ever attempted.
It is also the last of a dying breed. Fresh austerity at NASA, combined with a host of nations with new, spacefaring ambitions and a nascent commercial space industry, mean that Mars exploration post-Curiosity looks set to become smaller-scale, more innovative and a lot more international. "It's looking like MSL is going to be a one-of-a-kind rover," says Ryan Anderson, a member of the Curiosity team.
The moment may be bittersweet for NASA, but ...
12 Aug, 2012