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MSL / Curiosity
Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Mission to Mars

Goals: NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission set down a large, mobile laboratory - the rover Curiosity - using precision landing technology that makes many of Mars' most intriguing regions viable destinations for the first time.

During a 23 month prime mission, Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover. Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.

Accomplishments: The technology test was a success. The rover was delivered safely to the surface of Mars and immediately began sending back stunning images and science. Some top findings:

  • Ancient Mars could have the right chemistry to be a suitable home for life.
  • The rover found evidence of an ancient streambed where water once flowed knee-deep.
  • During the trip to Mars, the mission found radiation levels that could pose health risks to astronauts.
  • Curiosity found no evidence of methane in the Martian air. Methane could be a sign of life. The search continues.
  • The landing site was rich in different environments, all clues to Mars' watery past.

Key Dates
26 Nov 2011:  Launch
6 Aug 2012:  Mars Landing (5:32 a.m. UTC)
Status: On Mars
Fast Facts
MSL / Curiosity Facts Clara Ma (right), a 6th grader from Lenexa, Kan., suggested the name Curiousity for the rover.

The rover is almost the size of a small sport-utility vehicle. It is about 2.8 meters (9 feet long) and four times as heavy as NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

The first Mars rover, Sojourner, was about as big as a microwave oven.

According to Adam Steltzner (the lead mechanical engineer for entry, descent and landing) the mach gauge shown during the landing used Martian mach numbers. Mach 1 on Mars is approx. 240 m per second, whereas it's about 332 m per second on Earth.

It takes about 90 people to operate a Mars rover each day.
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Last Updated: 6 Jun 2015