Mars Rover Curiosity: The Red Planet's Next Explorer

After traveling 8 and a half months and 352 million miles, NASA's most technically advanced rover ever lands on the Red Planet early overnight Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.

mars13 Curiosity at Work on Mars

This artist's concept depicts the rover Curiosity, of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements. The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Science Lab landing site gale crater.jpg

Having landed on the red planet late Sunday night, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover find itself on the surface of the Red Planet and ready to explore Gale Crater, seen here.
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS

mars-rover1.JPG

In this July 25, 2012 photo, Rob Manning, chief engineer, speaks to media at NASA Mars Yard at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena Wednesday, July 25, 2012. Beside Manning is a model of the Mars rover, Curiosity.
AP

mars-rover2.JPG

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover lifts off from Launch Complex 41at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. , Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011.
AP

Curisoity Final tests

The NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, seen during final mobility testing on June 3 inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Lab Logo

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission logo takes shape as technicians install it on the exterior of an Atlas V rocket's payload fairing inside the Payload Hazardous Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Tucked inside the fairing is the compact car-sized rover, Curiosity.

NASA/Jim Grossmann

Payload Fairing Mars Lab

The Atlas V rocket's payload fairing containing the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft stands securely atop the transporter that carried it to Space Launch Complex 41.

NASA/Kim Shiflett

mars01 Curiosity Launch Vehicle

An Atlas V541 launch vehicle -- selected for the Mars Science Laboratory mission because it has the right liftoff capability for the heavy weight requirements of the rover and its spacecraft -- will carry NASA's Curiosity rover on its way to Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars02 Spacecraft During Cruise

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during its cruise phase between launch and final approach to Mars. The spacecraft includes a disc-shaped cruise stage (on the left) attached to the aeroshell. The spacecraft's rover (Curiosity) and descent stage are tucked inside the aeroshell.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars03 Curiosity Approaching Mars

This is an artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars05 Guided Entry

As it approaches the Martian atmosphere, thrusters will fire to slow the craft on its way to the planet's surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars06 Deceleration

This artist's concept depicts the interaction of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft with the upper atmosphere of Mars during the entry, descent and landing of the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars07 Parachute

A parachute systems will then deploy to further slow the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars08 on Parachute

This is an artist's concept of NASA's Curiosity rover tucked inside the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's backshell while the spacecraft is descending on a parachute toward Mars. The parachute is attached to the top of the backshell. In the scene depicted here, the spacecraft's heat shield has already been jettisoned.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars09 Descent Stage

An artist's concept of the rover and descent stage for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during the final minute before the rover, Curiosity, touches down on the surface of Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars10 Sky Crane Maneuver

This rover itself will then be lowered by sky crane to the Martian surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars12 A Moment After Touchdown

This artist's concept depicts the moment immediately after NASA's Curiosity rover touches down onto the Martian surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars14 Close-up

The mobile Curiosity robot will then be ready to scan for Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars15 Tall

The rover's head or mast rises to about 7 feet above ground level, about as tall as a basketball player. It supports two remote-sensing instruments: One for stereo color viewing of surrounding terrain and material collected by the arm and a laser that vaporizes material from rocks up to about 30 feet away to determines their composition.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars18 Size Comparison

An artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (left) serves to compare it with Spirit, one of NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars19 Using Laser Instrument

This artist's conception of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory portrays use of the rover's ChemCam instrument to identify the chemical composition of a rock sample on the surface of Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars20 ramp drive test

NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, drives up a ramp during a test at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., on Sept. 10, 2010. The rover, like its smaller predecessors already on Mars, uses a rocker bogie suspension system to drive over uneven ground. Technicians and engineers in clean room garb watch the test drive carefully inside JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars21 cruise stage in test chamber

Testing of the cruise stage for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory in August 2010 included a session in a facility that simulates the environment found in interplanetary space.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

mars22 wind tunnel

The team developing the landing system for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory tested the deployment of an early parachute design in mid-October 2007 inside the world's largest wind tunnel, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Rover Curiosity: The Red Planet's Next Explorer

After traveling 8 and a half months and 352 million miles, NASA's most technically advanced rover ever lands on the Red Planet early overnight Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.

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