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NASA rover to land on Mars in August

(Xinhua)

10:21, June 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, June 11 (Xinhua) -- NASA's Mars rover, nicknamed Curiosity, is due to land in August on the Red Planet and aims to touch down closer than expected to its mountain target, the U.S. space agency said Monday.

"We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half," said Pete Theisinger, Curiosity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "That could get us to the mountain months earlier."

Curiosity is scheduled to land near the base of a layered mountain three miles (five kilometers) high inside the Gale Crater on Mars, at approximately 1:31 a.m. EDT (0531 GMT) on Aug. 6. The crater spans almost 100 miles -- an area as large as Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.

Following checkout operations, Curiosity will begin a two-year study of whether the landing vicinity ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life.

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