For Len Ricardo, the operations manager at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, Monday will be just another day of making history at the office.
The 34-year NASA veteran is leading the Tidbinbilla team that will handle communications for the long awaited landing of Curiosity, the agency's $2.6 billion Mars science laboratory.
Launched on November 26 last year, after more than two years of delays, Curiosity is the largest, most complex and by far the most expensive Mars rover yet. It will search for the building blocks of life on the red planet.
Canberra will play a pivotal role when, after its 450 million-kilometre and eight-and-a-half month journey, Curiosity begins its descent from orbit into a 4.5-kilometre deep crater near the Martian equator. It is the main tracking station for the landing with three of its antennas, the 70-metre and two 34-metre dishes receiving signals from Curiosity and Mars Odyssey, another spacecraft already in orbit around the planet.
If, as Mr Ricardo expects, all goes to plan the Toyota Corolla-sized rover should touchdown at 3.31pm Canberra time. ''I'm pretty confident,'' he said. ''We've had a lot of experience with powered descents.''
Monday's landing is not a done deal however. The spacecraft enters the Martian atmosphere at 20,000 km/h and then endures what is called the ''seven minutes of terror'' it takes to reach the surface.
NASA won't know if Curiosity is safe until 14 minutes after impact due to the time it takes a radio signal to travel from Mars to Earth.
Asked if Monday's landing would be special, Mr Ricardo pauses and then replies: ''Hell yeah, of course I'm excited. [Even though] I've been doing this job for 34 years all of the missions have had their own challenges. Even the two Voyagers, although they looked almost identical, were quite unique.''
The softly spoken electrical service technician turned NASA team leader has had a passion for space since the launch of the first Sputnik mission in October 1957. A nine-year-old in Brisbane at the time, he watched the tiny white speck pass overhead in the night sky and heard the ''beep, beep, beep'' signal on the evening news.
''I started to play at amateur radio at school and I had a crystal set I got for my birthday,'' he said. ''I'm still a ham radio operator, I just never expected to have a set this big (indicating Tidbinbilla's 70-metre dish which, since modifications in the 1980s, is now even larger than the 1950s instrument at Parkes).''
After training as a service technician, Mr Ricardo's love of science drew him to Tidbinbilla in 1978 and he has never left.
While he missed the excitement of Apollo and Skylab he lived through the beginning and the end of the shuttle program.
''Working here means you are participating in history. It is like being on one of Columbus's ships but in a different time. You are helping to discover a new world,'' Mr Ricardo said.
History is not only triumphant. It can also be tragic and cruel. Mr Ricardo has vivid, and still raw, memories of the day in January 1986 he turned up at work to help monitor the Challenger mission.
''I walked in the door and asked 'how's Challenger?'. 'It's blown up,' someone said. I said 'you're bullshitting me'. Then they told me to look at the monitor.''
The NASA feed was replaying the launch and the explosion over and over again.