July 16 - As a robotic geologist approaches Mars, the mission program director says the rover's landing will be risky. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: On August 6, if all goes well, a robotic geologist will arrive on Mars. NASA scientists gave details on Monday about their latest Mars mission, which will try out a new strategy for searching for life beyond Earth. If the Mars Science Laboratory, a wheeled rover nicknamed Curiosity, touches down safely -- which is by no means a given -- scientists expect to have two years to collect information about Mount Sharp and the surrounding area. Mars Program Director Doug Mccuistion said the landing was not without its risks. "Is it crazy? Well, not so much. Once you get comfortable, once you understand it, it's not a crazy concept. It works. Is it risky? Landing on Mars is always risky," he said. Rather than hunt for microbes like the Viking missions of the 1970s, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will look for places that could have hosted and preserved life. The rover blasted off aboard an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket on Nov. 26 for a nine-month, 60-million mile voyage that is due to end at 1:30 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6.