Nasa weeks away from return to Mars

Nasa's robotic geologist is due to touch down on Mars early next month Credit: Nasa

Nasa are just weeks away from what will hopefully be a triumphant return to Mars.

If all goes well, a robotic geologist will arrive on the surface of the red planet, at 6.30 am BST on 6th August.

NASA scientists have given details about their latest Mars mission, which will try out a new strategy for searching for life beyond Earth.

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.

If the Mars Science Laboratory touches down safely, which is by no means certain, scientists expect to have two years to collect information about the area surrounding the landing site.

The spacecraft will take high resolution pictures before it lands Credit: Nasa

NASA hopes to land the Mars rover on a flat surface as close as possible to the base of Mount Sharp using a first-of-a-kind, rocket-powered sky crane.

The exact landing spot will depend on the craft's final steering manoeuvres as it races toward Mars.

A sky crane will lower the rover delicately onto the surface of Mars Credit: Nasa

The rover blasted off aboard an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket on 26th November for a nine-month, 60-million mile voyage.

After all the waiting, Programme Director Doug McCuistion recognises that just about anything could still go wrong.