The NASA Aerospace Spacecraft is nearing the end of its journey to Mars, which began about seven months ago and traveled 470 million kilometers, as it prepares for a risky landing attempt on the red planet.
The craft is the most advanced robotic astrobiology laboratory ever launched to another world.
The spacecraft is making the last 240,000 km of its journey, on its way to the expected landing Thursday, into a vast basin called the Jizero crater, where the bottom of a lake has long since disappeared.
Engineers hope to confirm the operation, and perhaps receive the first image of the surface shortly after the expected landing at 2055 GMT, from signals transmitted to Earth by one of several Mars orbits.
The main purpose of the $ 2.7 billion mission is to look for signs of microbial organisms that may have grown on the red planet about three billion years ago, when the planet was warmer, wetter, and possibly more habitable on it.