NASA’s launch of a new nuclear-powered car-sized Mars rover is being delayed one day to allow time for engineers to replace a suspect battery in the probe’s Atlas 5 launch vehicle.

The battery is part of a system that would be used to destroy the rocket if it started to veer off course after launch and threaten populated areas along Florida’s east coast.


NASA had hoped its $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory would be able to begin its nine-month journey on Friday. The new target launch time is 10:02 a.m. EST on Saturday.

Mars Science Lab, nicknamed Curiosity, is designed to spend one Martian year — two Earth years — combing an area known as Gale Crater to determine if it is or ever was suitable for life.

ANALYSIS: New Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater

Image: Mars Science Lab was hoisted atop its Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 3 in preparation for launch Thanksgiving weekend. Credit: NASA