Test operators monitor how NASA's Mars rover Curiosity handles driving over a ramp during a test on Sept. 10, 2010, inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Test operators monitor how NASA's Mars rover Curiosity handles driving over a ramp during a test on Sept. 10, 2010, inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The rover, like its smaller predecessors already on Mars, uses a rocker bogie suspension system to drive over uneven ground.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project will launch Curiosity in late 2011 for arrival at Mars in August 2012. The mission will study whether an intriguing area of Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving evidence of whether life existed there.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

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