After a six-year search, the land rover that was used to explore the depths of the Arctic Ocean is now on the move.
The Mars Science Laboratory lander, nicknamed “Candyland,” is expected to arrive at the Martian surface soon and make a permanent landing on the Red Planet, NASA officials said Thursday.
The rover’s arrival comes as a surprise to some, but is not surprising given that the lander’s mission was announced just days after the rover’s launch in June.
“The fact that the rover has been here for so long means that the team is not just working on the science side of things, they’re working on engineering side of the science mission,” Jim Green, the lead engineer for the rover, told reporters Thursday.
“They are not just building the science instrument, they are building the rover.”
The lander was designed to explore a site called Pangaea, a frozen, rocky area that once contained the largest collection of ancient rocks on Earth.
It took about four years for the landers to arrive in Antarctica, where it took a year and a half to complete its journey.
The landers main goal is to look for clues about the past and present of the Martian environment.
“It is our hope that we will find some surprises about Mars that may be important for understanding the past, for understanding how Mars got here and how it evolved,” Green said.
“We have to go where the data is, and that’s the polar regions.”
The Curiosity rover landed on Mars on March 8, 2012.
The mission was designed and built by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.