Seeking life: The rover is equipped with a drill to gather samples underground and send them to a self-contained lab to determine if there are any microorganisms present on the planet.
A rover (or sometimes planetary rover) is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other astronomical body. Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots. Rovers usually arrive at the planetary surface on a lander-style spacecraft.
The rover also will be the first to use nuclear power thanks to a radioisotope thermoelectric generator that will utilize the heat of plutonium-238’s radioactive decay.
The long-lived power supply will enable Curiosity to operate for at least a full Mars year (687 Earth days, or 1.9 Earth years). With a length of 10 feet and weight of 899 kg, the rover is the largest vehicle humans have sent to other planets.
The Curiosity program has cost a total of 2.5 billion dollars, including 1.8 billion dollars for spacecraft development and science investigations, NASA said. Curiosity, launched on Nov. 26, 2011, will travel almost 352 million miles (567 million km) to reach Mars.
Technology development makes missions possible. Each Mars mission is part of a continuing chain of innovation: each relies on past missions for new technologies and contributes its own innovations to future missions. This chain allows NASA to continue to push the boundaries of what is currently possible, while relying on proven technologies as well.
Technologies of Broad Benefit
|Propulsion:||for providing the energy to get to Mars and conduct long-term studies|
|Power:||for providing more efficient and increased electricity to the spacecraft and its subsystems|
|Telecommunications:||for sending commands and receiving data faster and in greater amounts|
|Avionics:||electronics for operating the spacecraft and its subsystems|
|Software Engineering:||for providing the computing and commands necessary to operate the spacecraft and its subsystems|
|Entry, Descent, and Landing:||for ensuring precise and safe landings|
|Autonomous Planetary Mobility:||for enabling rovers, airplanes, and balloons to make decisions and avoid hazards on their own|
|Technologies for Severe Environments:||for making systems robust enough to handle extreme conditions in space and on Mars|
|Sample Return Technologies:||for collecting and returning rock, soil, and atmospheric samples back to Earth for further laboratory analysis|
|Planetary Protection Technologies:||for cleaning and sterilizing spacecraft and handling soil, rock, and atmospheric samples|
|Remote Science Instrumentation:||for collecting Mars data from orbit|
for collecting Mars data from the surface