NASA Rover To Explore The Red Planet

A NASA rover called "Curiosity" is approaching Mars. After a more than eight-month journey, it's set to land on Mars late Sunday night. Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne report.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, maybe this is going to sound crazy, but the 1990 version of "Total Recall" took Arnold Schwarzenegger to Mars.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TOTAL RECALL")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as Character) Welcome to the Mars Federal Colony.

INSKEEP: This weekend, by the way, NASA's rover Curiosity is heading to Mars for real. It launched at the end of last year and is set to land on Mars just after 1 a.m. Eastern time on Monday.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

If all goes well, the vehicle will act as a geologist, drilling into the planet's crust and analyzing samples. Scientists are hoping for clues as to whether Mars is or ever was habitable and for signs of water.

INSKEEP: Chris Carberry's with the nonprofit group Explore Mars, and he says the anticipation here is emotional.

CHRIS CARBERRY: It's a combination, a lot of excitement, but people are going to be extremely nervous as well.

INSKEEP: He's helping to organize landing parties.

MONTAGNE: There are hundreds planned all over the world.

CARBERRY: I think the timing is just perfect. The scale of this mission, things we can learn from it, plus it's right in the middle of a timeframe where people have some doubts about the future. So I think people are really looking to grasp on to something really inspiring.

MONTAGNE: Carberry will be here in California watching the landing live in Pasadena or as close as it gets. Much like another widely watched TV event happening now in London, there is a tape delay. It takes 14 minutes for the signal to get to Mars and back.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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