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The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mission with the aim to land and operate a rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. Currently in transit to Mars, it was launched November 26, 2011, at 10:02 EST and is scheduled to land on Mars at Gale Crater on August 6, 2012 (about 10pm in the evening of August 5 PDT, the time used by the mission controllers in Pasadena, California). If MSL arrives at Mars, it will attempt a more precise landing than attempted previously and then help assess Mars's habitability. A primary mission objective is to determine whether Mars is or has ever been an environment able to support life, though it will not look for any specific type of life. Rather, it is intended to chemically analyze samples in various ways, including scooping up soil, drill rocks, and with a laser and sensor system. Curiosity rover is five times larger than Spirit or Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers and carries more than ten times the mass of scientific instruments than that design. MSL was launched by an Atlas V 541 rocket and after its journey to Mars and then landing, is designed to explore for at least 687 Earth days (1 Martian year) over a range of 5-20 km (3-12 miles). Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of Mars, and the project is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology for NASA. Doug McCuistion of NASA's Planetary Science Division is the Director of the Mars Exploration Program. The total cost of the MSL project is about US$2.5 billion. MSL launched on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011. On January 11, 2012, the spacecraft successfully refined its trajectory with a three-hour series of thruster-engine firings, advancing the rover's landing time by about 14 hours. When MSL was launched, the program's director was Doug McCuistion of NASA's Planetary Science Division. Curiosity successfully landed in the Gale Crater at 05:17:57.3 UTC on August 6, 2012, and transmitted Hazcam images confirming orientation. Due to the Mars-Earth distance at the time of landing and the limited speed of radio signals, the landing was not registered on Earth for another 14 minutes. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent a photograph of Curiosity descending under its parachute, taken by its HiRISE camera, during the landing procedure. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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