The U.S. space agency says the Mars rover Curiosity is ready to scoop up its first sample of soil from the red planet Saturday.
NASA officials made the announcement Thursday. It said the rover's robotic arm will take several samples of Martian soil in the coming days and process them to help determine if there was ever life on that planet.
Mission Manager Michael Watkins said great progress has been made during the first two months and that the mission is now at a critical stage.
Curiosity is the centerpiece of the two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission due to its ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments.
NASA says mineral analysis can reveal past environmental conditions with chemical analysis checking for ingredients necessary for life.