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We may finally get the answer to what is literally a million dollar question – has life ever existed on Mars?
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California tested model rovers Wednesday in preparation for the landing of the Curiosity rover, which is schedule for touchdown early next month.
"The total cost of the project is around two and a half billion dollars for the rover, the engineering, the rocket to get it there and the operations of the vehicle," said Matt Heverly, lead driver for the Curiosity rover on Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).
The laboratory's engineers tested two rovers to detect what the actual rover can drive over and its ability to avoid obstacles.
"We try to understand what are the limits of the vehicle so that when we get to Mars, we have a better idea of what we can actually drive over and what do we need to try and avoid," said Heverly.
In a video posted on the JPL site, John Grotzinger, MSL project scientist, explained the purpose of the long-anticipated mission.
"Curiosity is not a life mission detection. What we are looking for is the ingredients of life," he said.
The rover left Earth in November 2011 and is scheduled to land on the red planet Aug. 5.
After years of preparation, project scientists and engineers will find out if they can start their journey after "seven minutes of terror."
“It's seven minutes from when we hit the tip of the atmosphere until we land on the surface of Mars," said Torsten Zorn, flight director for Curiosity.
"We’ve been working on this particular rover for the past eight years."
If the rover lands successfully at Gale Crater, it will continue to Mount Sharp.
Want to test drive a rover? Fans can follow along with NASA by downloading an app and test-driving a 3-D rover while following in the discoveries on Mars.
For Xbox users, fans can try landing a rover in Mars for free with the Mars Rover Landing.