St. Louis Connection To NASA’s Mission To Mars

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Between midnight and 1 a.m. St. Louis time Monday morning, the largest spacecraft ever sent to another planet is scheduled to land on Mars.

 St. Louis is well-represented in the ranks of scientists overseeing the project.

The Rover called Curiosity will scream into the Martian atmosphere early Monday. If all goes well, parachutes and braking rockets will slow the vehicle enough for a safe landing. Curiosity, officially called the Mars Science Laboratory, is about the size of a small car like a mini-cooper. It weighs a ton, is ten feet long and can travel up to six miles an hour.

Washington University’s Ray Arvidson has been part of almost every mission to Mars since 1976. He'll be at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California advising on this mission too. Curiosity is set to land in a bowl that probably used to contain water.

Curiosity will be chugging along trying to determine what Mars was like in the past, back when it had an atmosphere and flowing water. It could also help scout possible landing spots for a manned mission to Mars in another 30 years or so.

Ray Arvidson and his team from Washington University will be worried about Sunday night and Monday morning is whether this $2.5 billion Rover makes it at all.