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JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. – A full-scale model of the Mars Curiosity Rover was recently assembled on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in preparation for its appearance during the 57th presidential inaugural parade. The size of a Mini Cooper, the model is an exact replica of the Rover that is currently exploring Mars.

“The Curiosity Rover represents NASA science at its best. The rover achieved the most difficult landing ever attempted on another planet and will help lay the groundwork for President Obama’s goal of sending humans to the red planet in the 2030s,” said Lauren Worley, press secretary for NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Curiosity will help us determine if Mars was ever hospitable to life and what local conditions astronauts will encounter on the planet’s surface when they arrive.”

NASA is currently exploring Mars with rovers and orbiters, and has a robust portfolio of new missions in development to expand their knowledge of the planet well into the future, Worley said.

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Program walked alongside their model during the inaugural parade – much to the delight of thousands in attendance. The group’s mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes.

“In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s habitability,” Worley said. “The Mars Science Laboratory is charged with studying Mars’ habitability.”

To find this out, the rover carries the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the Mars surface. The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet’s climate and geology is essentially “written in the rocks and soil” in their formation, structure, and chemical composition.

“The rover’s onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life on Mars,” Worley said. “It will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.”