Robert Z. Pearlman / collectSpace.com
NASA's Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory as seen on Aug. 12 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The next time the rover will be seen in this configuration is after it lands on the surface of Mars in August 2012.
updated 11/20/2011 12:22:52 PM ET 2011-11-20T17:22:52

NASA has pushed back the launch of a $2.5 billion Mars rover by one day, to Saturday, in order to replace a suspect battery on the rover's rocket.

"The launch is rescheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.," NASA officials wrote in an update. "The one hour and 43 minute launch window opens at 10:02 a.m. EST."

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The launch will blast off atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket to send the rover, called the Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, toward the Red Planet. The one-day launch delay will give engineers a chance to replace a suspect battery in the rocket's flight termination system — an emergency safety system used to destroy the Atlas 5 rocket should it veer off course after liftoff.

NASA has until Dec. 18 to launch the new rover toward Mars and still make the current flight window to the Red Planet. The car-size Curiosity rover carries 10 instruments and is designed to seek out any evidence that Mars was once habitable or could have supporte microbial life in the past.

The rover also has a laser that can shoot at rocks in order to study the gases released from the blast.

The Curiosity rover is NASA's largest Mars rover mission yet and is expected to last at least two years exploring the Martian surface. Curiosity is about 9 feet (3 meters) long and wide, and has a camera mast that stands about 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall. The rover is also equipped with a sophisticated robotic arm that has a reach of up to 7 feet. Each of the rover's wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) wide.

The rover carries a nuclear power source to feed its onboard systems instead of the solar arrays used by its wheeled predecessors on Mars. Those predecessors include the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on the Red Planet in 2004; and the smaller Sojourner, which roved over Mars in 2007 as part of the Mars Pathfinder mission.

Curiiosity is also designed to land on Mars using a rocket-powered sky crane, which will lower the rover to the Martian surface.

If all goes well, Curiosity is expected to land inside Mars' huge Gale Crater sometime on Aug. 6, 2012.

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Video: How NASA's probe will get to Mars

Photos: Mars Curiosity rover

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  1. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. (Terry Renna / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The Mars Science Laboratory, and accompanying Atlas V rocket, is hoisted into place at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Kim Shiflett / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. NASA technicians look over the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover during inspections at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. NASA technicians examine the wheels of the Mars Science Laboratory rover. (Dutch Slager / NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Technicians examine the turret at the end of the Mars Science Laboratory's arm. The turret weighs 73 pounds and holds the machines that will touch the rocks and soil on Mars. (Frankie Martin / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Mars Science Laboratory's Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument will measure heat shield temperatures and atmospheric pressures during the spacecraft's high-speed, extremely hot entry into the Martian atmosphere. (Lockheed Martin) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. NASA engineers stand by Mars Science Laboratory's aeroshell, a conical shell that will help protect the rover Curiosity, a robot the size of a car, from the searing temperatures of atmospheric entry when it lands on Mars, shown at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, April 4. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA mega-rover, Curiosity's wheels and suspension are shown at the Mars Science Laboratory. Technicians, dressed in protective suits, has been working around the clock inside a clean room at the JPL assembling the craft, testing its science instruments, before shipping it off to Florida for launch later this year. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. There are 10 instruments on board Curiosity that can analyze samples to help determine if the Red Planet is or has ever been "favorable" to microbial life, according to NASA.

    See more close-up Curiosity pics by Joseph Linaschke at Boing Boing (Joseph Linaschke / photojoseph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA engineers work on Curiosity, a mega-rover at the Mars Science Laboratory. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. NASA Mars Curiosity's mega-rover's Mars Science Laboratory Mast Camera is seen at the Mars Science Laboratory, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Curiosity's wheels are individually powered, and enable the mega-rover to turn 360 degrees while staying in place.

    See more close-up Curiosity pics by Joseph Linaschke at Boing Boing (Joseph Linaschke / photojoseph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. NASA engineers work on Curiosity. Last month, the mega-rover was subjected to "near-vacuum pressure," according to NASA, with temperatures colder than minus-200 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to simulate the environmental stresses of the Martian surface. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Terry Renna / AP
    Above: Slideshow (13) Mars Curiosity rover
  2. Image:
    Y. Beletsky / ESO
    Slideshow (12) Month in Space: January 2014

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