(CBS News) After years of planning, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is easy to glimpse. The next-generation Curiosity rover is on track to land on Mars next year. For the moment, the craft is still being put through its paces at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. By fall, the Curiosity will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., where a launch is slated between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18. The target area remains undecided but NASA scientists hope the Curiosity will be able to shed light on whether Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life or whether Martian life has ever existed.
The Curiosity is said to be roughly the size of a sports utility vehicle and much larger than the previous Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Both rovers have been rolling around the Martian surface since 2004.

If you want to get an idea of how the early part of this incredible space journey is supposed to play out, take a look at this video illustration NASA released this week, depicting how the Curiosity rover will get deposited on the surface of the Red Planet.

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