PASADENA, California - The Mars science rover Curiosity streaked into the planet's thin atmosphere on Sunday night and began its descent to the surface in a make-or-break landing attempt that was expected to put the probe on the surface within seven minutes, NASA said.
Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles said they hoped to have confirmation shortly after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time Sunday (1:30 a.m. EDT Monday/0530 GMT) that the car-sized rover had landed as planned inside a vast, ancient crater.
If there is no radio signal from Curiosity verifying that it safely touched down, NASA officials said it could take many hours to learn the fate of the probe, sent to Mars in search of evidence the Red Planet once hosted the ingredients for life.
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