WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US space agency is getting ready to launch later this month the biggest, most expensive robotic vehicle ever built to explore Mars for signs of previous life there, NASA said Thursday. The Curiosity rover, known formally as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), is a $2.5 billion state-of-the-art vehicle equipped with video cameras and a sophisticated mobile tool kit for analyzing rocks and soil on the red planet. The launch of the 1,982-pound (899-kilogram) rover is set for November 25 at 10:21 am (1521 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is a Mars scientists dream machine, said Ashwin Vasavada, MSL deputy project scientist at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This is the most capable scientific explorer we have ever sent out... We are super excited. The rover will explore the Gale Crater on Mars, just south of that planets equator, where a range of soils exist and a small mountain gives the rover a chance to climb and analyze samples at different heights. But first it faces a long, 354-million-mile (570-million-kilometer) journey to get there, taking about eight and a half months before landing in August 2012. The landing itself is set to be a spectacular affair. A ravioli-shaped capsule will open to expose the rover suspended by a rocket backpack that will fire its engines to lower the MSL to the ground. The rovers six wheels and suspension system should pop into place just before touchdown, NASA said.