Nasa tests next-generation of Mars Rover in preparation for start of £1.6bn mission


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The Mojave Desert stood in for the dry earth of the Red Planet yesterday as Nasa scientists tested an engineering model of their next-generation Mars rover.

'Scarecrow' is a smaller version of the Mars Rover 'Curiosity' which was launched on November 26 of last year.

'Curiosity' is due to land near the Martian equator in under three months.

Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been using 'Scarecrow' to ensure that 'Curiosity' will be able to take pictures, collect samples and, of course, drive when it touches-down on the evening of August 5.

The Dumont Dunes near Death Valley are thought to be an accurate substitute for the Mars landscape, and the area is popular with off-road vehicle fans.

All being well 'Curiosity' should land inside the Gale Crater on the Martian equator at the beginning of August, as part of a £1.6bn mission scheduled to last two years.

'Curiosity' is around ten foot long, approximately the size of a mini - and is considered a 'Mega-Rover'.

It is five times the size of the previous Mars Rover 'Opportunity'.

The challenges facing 'Curiosity' were made clear this week after 'Opportunity', the previous Mars Rover, 'woke-up' following a hibernation period to allow solar panels to recharge its batteries.

'Opportunity' had been still for 19-weeks because of the dark Martian winter.

Click on the gallery above to see Nasa testing 'Scarecrow' in the Mojave desert.