NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, which will land on the Red Planet in August.
The car-sized rover will touch down closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard. It was possible to adjust landing plans because of increased confidence in precision landing technology aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which is carrying the Curiosity rover. That spacecraft can aim closer without hitting Mount Sharp at the center of Gale crater. Rock layers located in the mountain are the prime location for research with the rover.
Curiosity is scheduled to land at approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6). Following checkout operations, Curiosity will begin a two-year study of whether the landing vicinity ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life.