ASU played part in Mars rover 'The Curiosity' - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

ASU played part in Mars rover 'The Curiosity'

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TEMPE, Ariz. -

NASA is anxiously waiting to see one of its rovers lands on Mars. It's called "The Curiosity" and it is set to touch down on Sunday -- and the people who helped design it are from our backyard at ASU.

ASU professors helped design the camera and other instruments on the rover.

As one professor said Friday, they are some really smart people and they are anxious to see this rover land smoothly.

Just getting the rover to the big red planet is tough.

"Imagine something two miles away. Two miles away. You're there in one second. You're going really fast and it still takes 8 months to get there. Mars is a long ways away," says Philip Christensen.

NASA is expecting the Curiosity, a rover roughly five times the size of this one at ASU, to land this Sunday on Mars.

ASU professor Jim Bell helped build the camera that is on the arm of this rover.

"You get a close up view of the rocks and surface," says Christensen.

The Curiosity will land on the northern end of the 96-mile wide crater, then drive about 15 miles down into it.

These ASU professors also helped design some of the other instruments on the rover.

Over at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Professor Philip Christensen says the professors who worked on it are sitting on pins and needles.

"Very nervous. Landing on Mars… Mars is a tiny red dot."

It seems impossible to get to. Plus, the Curiosity cost about $2.5 billion to make.

Scientists have been working on it for the past eight years. It has to get through Mars' thin atmosphere, then a parachute will deploy and rockets will flip on.

"The first goal is to make it to the ground without crashing. Then as a science team, then you get to have fun."

If all goes well, scientists will get a glimpse of what lies in this massive crater. They are looking for signs of life and water.

That crater could have been a lake at some point, that's why the Curiosity is landing there. They are hoping to find fossils in the sediment. The Curiosity landing will stream live through NASA's website.

Online: www.nasa.gov

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