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Weather forecast 'good' for NASA landing on Mars

In this 2011 file artist's rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, a 'sky crane' lowers the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars the night of Aug. 5, 2012.

AP/NASA/JPL-Caltech

The weather conditions on Mars are expected to be favorable when NASA's $2.5-billion (U.S.) Mars Science Laboratory attempts its risky landing on August 6, the U.S. space agency said Saturday.

"Mars is playing nice and we are going to get good conditions for Sunday," said MSL deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada at a new briefing ahead of the landing set for 0531 GMT on Monday (1:31 a.m. Eastern time).

A dust storm spotted days ago near the landing site has dissipated into a "fairly harmless cloud of dust," he said.

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"That dust cloud probably will not reach Gale Crater by the time we land," he said, adding that it was not "expected to affect entry, descent and landing in any meaningful way."

The robotic rover is carrying a complex chemistry toolkit for analyzing rocks and soil in the hunt for signs of past life on the Red Planet.

The six-wheeled vehicle is the size of a small car and is due to be lowered onto the surface in a high-drama operation that includes spacecraft separation, parachute dropdown, a rocket-powered sky crane and a tethered soft landing.

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