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Geek alert: Watch the Mars rover getting assembled

October 21, 2010 |  1:50 pm

JPL

Ever wonder what it’s like assembling the high-tech robots that trawl other planets?

Well, the folks over at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge are giving you the chance to find out.

The space agency has set up the "Curiosity Cam" that streams live video of the next Mars rover being built. Watch technicians assemble and test the robot, dubbed Curiosity, before it is sent off to the Red Planet next year.

The automobile-sized rover will investigate whether Mars' environment is suitable for supporting microbial life and for preserving evidence about whether life ever existed there.

"Curiosity is engineered to drive longer distances over rougher terrain than previous rovers," NASA said. It will also be carrying 10 times the weight in scientific instruments to test the atmosphere and soil.

When you tune in, you’ll notice technicians look like white ninjas. They’re wearing white smocks, booties and face masks. Known as "bunny suits," they are designed to prevent any contaminants from reaching the rover.

Work in the clean room begins at 8 a.m. Pacific time Monday through Friday, NASA said.

From time to time, the camera may be turned off for maintenance. But when it’s off, NASA will have a slide show of Mars and rover images.

NASA is planning to ship Curiosity to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., next spring. The launch is scheduled between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. It would land on Mars sometime in August 2012.

-- W.J. Hennigan

Photo: The Curiosity Cam live video feed allows the public to watch technicians assemble and test NASA's next Mars rover in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech.

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