Curiosity


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Science goals

NASA officials said the parachute would need to withstand 65, lbs. Under the parachute, MSL let go of the bottom of its heat shield so that it could get a radar fix on the surface and figure out its altitude. The parachute could only slow MSL to mph kph , far too fast for landing. To solve the problem, engineers designed the assembly to cut off the parachute, and use rockets for the final part of the landing sequence.

About 60 feet 18 m above the surface, MSL's "skycrane" deployed. The landing assembly dangled the rover below the rockets using a foot 6 m tether. NASA personnel tensely watched the rover's descent on live television. When they received confirmation that Curiosity was safe, engineers pumped fists and jumped up and down in jubilation. News of the landing spread through traditional outlets, such as newspapers and television, as well as social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

One engineer became famous because of the Mohawk he sported on landing day.

As big as an SUV

The rover has a few tools to search for habitability. Among them is an experiment that bombards the surface with neutrons , which would slow down if they encountered hydrogen atoms: Curiosity's 7-foot arm can pick up samples from the surface and cook them inside the rover, sniffing the gases that come out of there and analyzing them for clues as to how the rocks and soil formed. The Sample Analysis of Mars instrument , if it does pick up evidence of organic material, can double-check that. On Curiosity's front, under foil covers, are several ceramic blocks infused with artificial organic compounds.

Curiosity Rover Finds Methane on Mars ]. Curiosity can drill into each of these blocks and place a sample into its oven to measure its composition. Researchers will then see if organics appear that were not supposed to be in the block.

If so, scientists will likely determine these are organisms hitchhiking from Earth. High-resolution cameras surrounding the rover take pictures as it moves, providing visual information that can be compared to environments on Earth. This was used when Curiosity found evidence of a streambed , for example.

The Curiosity Daily Podcast: Get Smarter in Just a Few Minutes

In September , Curiosity arrived at its science destination, Mount Sharp Aeolis Mons shortly after a NASA science review said the rover should do less driving and more searching for habitable destinations. It is now carefully evaluating the layers on the slope as it moves uphill. The goal is to see how the climate of Mars changed from a wet past to the drier, acidic conditions of today. Curiosity's prime mission is to determine if Mars is, or was, suitable for life. While it is not designed to find life itself, the rover carries a number of instruments on board that can bring back information about the surrounding environment.

Scientists hit something close to the jackpot in early , when the rover beamed back information showing that Mars had habitable conditions in the past. Powder from the first drill samples that Curiosity obtained included the elements of sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon, which are all considered "building blocks" or fundamental elements that could support life. While this is not evidence of life itself, the find was still exciting to the scientists involved in the mission.

NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Is Rolling (and Drilling) Again

Scientists also detected a huge spike in methane levels on Mars in late and early , at a level of about 7 parts per billion compared to the usual 0. This was a notable finding because in some circumstances, methane is an indicator of microbial life. But it can also point to geological processes. In , however, the team determined the methane spike was not a seasonal event. There are smaller background changes in methane, however, that could be linked to the seasons. Curiosity also made the first definitive identification of organics on Mars, as announced in December Organics are considered life's building blocks, but do not necessarily point to the existence of life as they can also be created through chemical reactions.

Initial results released at the Lunar and Planetary Science conference in showed scientists found complex organic molecules in Martian samples stored inside the Curiosity rover, but using an unexpected method. In , results based on Curiosity's work added more evidence that life was possible on Mars. One study described the discovery of more organic molecules in 3. The seasonal changes could mean that the gas is produced from living organisms, but there's no definitive proof of that yet.

Besides hunting for habitability, Curiosity has other instruments on board that are designed to learn more about the environment surrounding it. Among those goals is to have a continuous record of weather and radiation observations to determine how suitable the site would be for an eventual human mission. Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector runs for 15 minutes every hour to measure a swath of radiation on the ground and in the atmosphere. Scientists in particular are interested in measuring "secondary rays" or radiation that can generate lower-energy particles after it hits the gas molecules in the atmosphere.

Gamma-rays or neutrons generated by this process can cause a risk to humans. Additionally, an ultraviolet sensor stuck on Curiosity's deck tracks radiation continuously. A mission with days flying to Mars, days on the surface and days heading back to Earth would create a dose of 1. The total lifetime limit for European Space Agency astronauts is 1 sievert, which is associated with a 5-percent increase in fatal cancer risk over a person's lifetime. The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station measures the wind's speed and chart its direction, as well as determining temperature and humidity in the surrounding air.

By , scientists were able to see long-term trends in atmospheric pressure and air humidity. Some of these changes occur when the winter carbon-dioxide polar caps melt in the spring, dumping huge amounts of moisture into the air. In early , Curiosity sent back pictures of crystals that could have formed from ancient lakes on Mars. There are multiple hypotheses for these features, but one possibility is they formed after salts concentrated in an evaporating water lake. Some Internet rumors speculated the features were actually signs of burrowing life , but NASA quickly discounted that hypothesis based on their linear angles — a feature that is very similar to crystalline growth.

Vapors from a "wet chemistry" experiment filled with a fluid called MTBSTFA N-methyl-N-tert-butyldimethylsilyl-trifluoroacetamide contaminated a gas-sniffing analysis instrument shortly after Curiosity landed. The remaining three are associated with sample acquisition and sample preparation functions: Since early the percussive mechanism in the drill that helps chisel into rock has had an intermittent electrical short. Curiosity has an advanced payload of scientific equipment on Mars.

Previous successful Mars rovers are Sojourner from the Mars Pathfinder mission , and Spirit — and Opportunity —present rovers from the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The region the rover is set to explore has been compared to the Four Corners region of the North American west. Colin Pillinger , leader of the Beagle 2 project, reacted emotionally to the large number of technicians monitoring Curiosity 's descent, because Beagle 2 had only four people monitoring it.

A NASA panel selected the name Curiosity following a nationwide student contest that attracted more than 9, proposals via the Internet and mail. Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force.

Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder. Wind erosion then scoured out the sediments, leaving an isolated 5. Thus, it is believed that the rover may have the opportunity to study two billion years of Martian history in the sediments exposed in the mountain.

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Additionally, its landing site is near an alluvial fan , which is hypothesized to be the result of a flow of ground water, either before the deposition of the eroded sediments or else in relatively recent geologic history. According to NASA, an estimated 20, to 40, heat-resistant bacterial spores were on Curiosity at launch, and as much as 1, times that number may not have been counted. Curiosity , on the other hand, was active when it touched down on the surface of Mars, employing the rover suspension system for the final set-down.

The descent stage then flew away to a crash landing, and the rover prepared itself to begin the science portion of the mission.

The NASA website momentarily became unavailable from the overwhelming number of people visiting it, [] and a minute NASA excerpt of the landings on its YouTube channel was halted an hour after the landing by an automated DMCA takedown notice from Scripps Local News , which prevented access for several hours. On August 13, , U. President Barack Obama , calling from aboard Air Force One to congratulate the Curiosity team, said, "You guys are examples of American know-how and ingenuity. It's really an amazing accomplishment.

Scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, California, viewed the CheMin instrument aboard Curiosity as a potentially valuable means to examine ancient works of art without damaging them. Until recently, only a few instruments were available to determine the composition without cutting out physical samples large enough to potentially damage the artifacts. CheMin directs a beam of X-rays at particles as small as micrometers 0.

Engineers created a smaller, portable version named the X-Duetto. Fitting into a few briefcase -sized boxes, it can examine objects on site, while preserving their physical integrity. It is now being used by Getty scientists to analyze a large collection of museum antiques and the Roman ruins of Herculaneum , Italy.

Prior to the landing, NASA and Microsoft released Mars Rover Landing , a free downloadable game on Xbox Live that uses Kinect to capture body motions, which allows users to simulate the landing sequence. NASA gave the general public the opportunity from until to submit their names to be sent to Mars. Elsewhere on the rover is the autograph of Clara Ma, the year-old girl from Kansas who gave Curiosity its name in an essay contest, writing in part that "curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. On August 6, , Curiosity audibly played " Happy Birthday to You " in honor of the one Earth year mark of its Martian landing, the first time for a song to be played on another planet.

This was also the first time music was transmitted between two planets. On June 24, , Curiosity completed a Martian year — Earth days—after finding that Mars once had environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Some spare parts from the build and ground test of Curiosity may be used in the new vehicle.

On August 5, , NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity rover mission landing, and related exploratory accomplishments, on the planet Mars. Curiosity 's First Five Years Five Years Driving As reported in , drill samples taken in uncovered organic molecules of benzene and propane in 3 billion year old rock samples in Gale Crater.

Collier Trophy by the National Aeronautic Association "In recognition of the extraordinary achievements of successfully landing Curiosity on Mars, advancing the nation's technological and engineering capabilities, and significantly improving humanity's understanding of ancient Martian habitable environments. Curiosity 's landing site is on Aeolis Palus near Mount Sharp north is down. Mount Sharp rises from the middle of Gale Crater ; the green dot marks Curiosity 's landing site north is down. Green dot is Curiosity 's landing site; upper blue is Glenelg ; lower blue is base of Mount Sharp.

Curiosity 's landing ellipse. Quad 51, called Yellowknife, marks the area where Curiosity actually landed. MSL debris field - parachute landed m from Curiosity 3-D: First-year and first-mile map of Curiosity 's traverse on Mars August 1, 3-D. Ejected heat shield as viewed by Curiosity descending to Martian surface August 6, Curiosity 's first image after landing August 6, The rover's wheel can be seen.

Curiosity 's first image after landing without clear dust cover, August 6, Curiosity 's self-portrait - with closed dust cover September 7, Curiosity 's self-portrait September 7, ; color-corrected. Lincoln penny on Mars Curiosity ; September 4, Comparison of color versions raw, natural, white balance of Aeolis Mons on Mars August 23, Curiosity 's view of Aeolis Mons August 9, ; white-balanced image. Layers at the base of Aeolis Mons. The dark rock in inset is the same size as Curiosity. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars.

This article is about the Mars rover. For its spaceflight mission, see Mars Science Laboratory.


  1. NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Is Rolling (and Drilling) Again.
  2. Curiosity (rover) - Wikipedia.
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Self-portrait of Curiosity located at the foothill of Mount Sharp October 6, Chemistry and Camera complex. Rover Environmental Monitoring Station. Mars Hand Lens Imager. Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. Curiosity 's CheMin Spectrometer on Mars September 11, , with sample inlet seen closed and open. Sample Analysis at Mars. Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons. First use of Curiosity 's scooper as it sifts a load of sand at Rocknest October 7, Comparison of embedded computer systems on board the Mars rovers.

Descent of Curiosity video Quad 51, a 1-mile-bymile section of Gale Crater - Curiosity landing site is noted. Curiosity rover on Mars — self-portraits. Curiosity at " Rocknest " on Aeolis Palus October Curiosity at " Windjana " on Aeolis Palus May Curiosity at " Mojave " on Aeolis Mons January Curiosity at " Buckskin " on Aeolis Mons August Curiosity at " Namib " on Aeolis Mons January Retrieved December 14, Retrieved February 2, Retrieved August 6, Retrieved November 21, Retrieved June 23, Retrieved August 22, Retrieved October 7, Retrieved October 4, Retrieved August 9, Retrieved August 10, Retrieved August 16, Retrieved August 21, Archived from the original on April 6, Retrieved December 5, Retrieved August 8, Retrieved January 26, Retrieved May 27, Retrieved August 7, Archived from the original PDF on February 26, Retrieved December 26, Retrieved September 7, Retrieved November 11, Archived from the original PDF on December 16, Space Radioisotope Power Systems and Applications: Applications in Physical Sciences.

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Retrieved June 17, National Association for Amateur Radio. JPL - Martian Diaries. Retrieved August 30, The problem and solutions". The Planetary Society Blogs. Retrieved July 31,

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