Update: Yup, it worked! The rover has landed!

Is there life on Mars? That is just one question NASA hopes is answered when its $2.5 billion Curiosity rover lands in a crater on Sunday night.

The mobile laboratory will be zooming toward the Red Planet at a zippy 13,200 miles per hour. To prevent collision, a complex landing system should allow the Curiosity rover to slow, hover, and be lowered onto the planet’s surface by nylon tethers. The final seven minutes of the journey, controlled by autopilot, have been dubbed “7 Minutes of Terror.”

This high-tech exploring robot will be able to analyze objects from a distance and determine the composition of the planet’s rocks, soil and atmosphere. The rover may just answer the question of whether there has ever been — or continues to be — life on Mars. The Curiosity rover is equipped with 10 instruments to survey the planet, and will traverse its new home for two years. Scientists are especially excited for the rover to explore Mount Sharp, where water-formed minerals have been seen from orbit.

“We have a great landing site that was a strong science contender for earlier missions, but was not permitted for engineering constraints because no earlier landing could be targeted precisely enough to hit a safe area inside Gale Crater,”said John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, project scientist for Curiosity. “The science team feels very optimistic about exploration of Mount Sharp and the surrounding region that includes the landing ellipse.”

The Curiosity rover is set to land at approximately 1:31 a.m. EST Aug. 6, so you may have to stay up a little late to see the event live. If you are in New York City, you may want to join the masses watching the live landing in Times Square, beginning at 11:30 p.m. EST. Streaming on the Times Square Toshiba Vision Screen, just beneath the New Year’s Eve ball, New Yorkers will be able to experience the moment in a setting befitting such an historic event.

Image and video credits: NASA