Mars, here we come!

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Artist rendering of the Mars rover Curiosity doing robotic scientific research on the Martin surface (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

This weekend, the twin brother of this SUV sized interplanetary rover which we saw in JPL’s “Mars Yard,”  is scheduled to touchdown on the Red Planet. Dubbed Curiosity, the rover is the biggest and most sophisticated vehicles ever sent to the Martian surface. When it arrives, this robotic geologist will look for those ever-elusive signs of life from Mars’ early history in the planet’s Gale crater. The rover  is designed to operate for one Martian year (that’s over 600 Earth days) and travel between three to 12 miles a day.

Below, Curiosity Mission Manager Mike Watkins talks about the one-ton, plutonium fueled rover and what he hopes it will discover as it takes a Martian road trip.

And one member of the Curiosity team reflects on the important piece of equipment’s he’s in charge of and the stress and joy that comes with working on a project ten years in the making.

And space exploration has caught up with the social media age. You can follow Curiosity’s Facebook page. (Don’t feel bad if it has more friends than you do. It is a very cool explorer on a distant world, after all.)

And if the Mars mission has whetted your appetite to learn more about space exploration and the wonders of our solar system, you might want to drive over to Pasadena, where a festival about all things space is being held at the Pasadena Convention Center called Planetfest 2012, sponsored by the Planetary Society.