Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity
We are developing an integrated strategy to ensure that the next steps for the robotic Mars Exploration Program will support science as well as long-term human exploration goals. The missions currently at Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory on its way, and MAVEN well into development, will provide many years of data to help us understand the Red Planet and our needs in future years to meet the President’s challenge to send humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.
This artist concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity is being tested in preparation for launch in the fall of 2011. In this picture, the rover examines a rock on Mars with a set of tools at the end of the rover's arm, which extends about 2 meters (7 feet). Two instruments on the arm can study rocks up close. Also, a drill can collect sample material from inside of rocks and a scoop can pick up samples of soil. The arm can sieve the samples and deliver fine powder to instruments inside the rover for thorough analysis.
The mast, or rover's "head," rises to about 2.1 meters (6.9 feet) above ground level, about as tall as a basketball player. This mast supports two remote-sensing instruments: the Mast Camera, or "eyes," for stereo color viewing of surrounding terrain and material collected by the arm; and, the ChemCam instrument, which is a laser that vaporizes material from rocks up to about 9 meters (30 feet) away and determines what elements the rocks are made of.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech