Mars Curiosity Rover

With the Mars Curiosity landing just a few hours away I thought it would be a good time to list some facts about the rover and it’s mission.

Overview

  • Curiosity is just the name of the rover; the overall mission is referred to as the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL
  • Of the previous 39 missions to Mars, including orbiters and landers, only 15 have been successful
  • All six successful landers have been NASA missions, though a Soviet lander did broadcast for 14 minutes before contact was lost
  • The Mars Science Laboratory mission cost $2.5 billion which is about $1 billion over budget

The Rover

  • The Curiosity rover weighs 900 kilograms
  • When on Mars it will be able to move at 30 meters per hour depending on the terrain
  • Curiosity has 17 cameras and 10 other scientific instruments
  • These include a mobile organic chemistry lab and a laser that can vaporise rocks
  • The rover is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator and lithium-ion batteries

Mars Curiosity Rover

The Journey

  • The MSL was launched on the 26th November 2011 from Cape Canaveral
  • The Mars Science Laboratory has travelled 560 million km to reach Mars a journey which has taken just over eight months

The Mission

  • The main mission is expected to last for one Martian year or about 98 weeks

The MSL mission has four scientific goals:

  1. Determine whether Mars could ever have supported life
  2. Study the climate of Mars
  3. Study the geology of Mars
  4. Plan for a human mission to Mars

The Landing

  • The landing will take place at the base of Mount Sharp inside the Gale Crater at about 05:31 UTC on August 6, 2012
  • It will take about 7 minutes for the MSL to make its entry, descent, and landing once it reaches Mars’ atmosphere
  • This seven minutes has been dubbed the “7 minutes of terror”, the video below explains everything that will occur during this period


A live broadcast of the landing can be watched here.