10 Cool Facts About The Mars Curiosity Rover
10 Cool Facts About The Mars Curiosity Rover
tl;dr: check out our 10 Mars Curiosity Rover Facts Infographic.
The Curiosity, a Mars Rover, landed with the help of a robotic space probe by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The Curiosity Rover launched in November of 2011 by NASA.
The rover landed in Aeolis Palus in the Gale Crater in August of 2012, it took the rover eight months to reach Mars from Earth.
The Curiosity Rover is a car-sized rover (a six-wheeled robot named by a sixth-grader) equipped with an array of instruments suited for scientific investigations on another planet.
What Will Curiosity Do?
The scientific investigations that were to be carried out by Curiosity included the study of the climate and geology of Mars; whether the site in the immediate vicinity in the Gale Crater offered environmental conditions favorable to the growth of microbes.
Additional investigations include the role of water, if any, was present and whether the planet could be habitable by humans in the future.
How Long Will Curiosity Cruise?
Though Curiosity’s mission was to only last two years’ time after landing in 2012, in December that year, the program was extended indefinitely.
Here are 10 Cool Facts About the Mars Curiosity Rover that are sure to excite you.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #10: 1,000 Days and Counting
As of September 2015, the Curiosity Rover had already spent 1,150 days on planet Mars since its touchdown on August 6, 2012.
However, it has managed to travel a distance of only 3 to 12 miles from its landing site within this time. The average speed of Curiosity has been between 0.00018 mph and 0.00073 mph during this journey.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #9: Robotically Human
The Curiosity rover robot is designed with all that a human would need to explore the planet: brains, body, arms, eyes, legs, etc.
The body is a structure that is designed to protect all its vital parts. The brain consists of many computers that help in processing the data that gets acquired.
The cameras set up on its mast resemble the neck and head. The cameras simulate the eyes of the robot and these provide relevant information about the immediate environment in the planet.
Curiosity is equipped with arms that reach out and collect samples from the Martian ground. The rover has been outfitted with wheels or legs for mobility. The robot is also fitted with batteries for energy.
All the communications are carried out with the help of its antenna. The robot’s temperature is controlled with the help of layers of insulation as well as other controls.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #8: Sky-Crane Technology
The MSL spacecraft descended on a parachute and seconds before landing on the surface, it lowered the Curiosity rover (in an upright position) using a tether. Its working was similar to a sky crane at that point in time.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #7:A Series of Expeditions
The MSL mission is only the entrée program of a series of science expeditions that would help to meet four scientific goals using Curiosity rover:
- Characterize Mars’ climate
- Study its geology
- Determine whether life ever existed on the planet
- Prepare for human exploration of the planet in the future.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #6: The Expendable One
The MSL spacecraft that carried the Curiosity Rover was launched aboard Atlas V-541 which had sufficient velocity to escape the gravity of Earth and set course to Mars.
This rocket was an expendable one, meaning, it was and could be used only once.
This launch vehicle was chosen keeping in mind the heavy mass (the total launch mass was roughly 1,170,000 lbs) that was required to be carried into space.
The number 541 in the name of the rocket has a special significance. The “5” signifies the 5 meter diameter of the nose cone; “4” represents the 4 boosters that were tethered to the central core booster and “1” signifies the one-engine upper stage of the rocket (Centaur).
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #5: An Ensemble of Instruments
The Curiosity Rover is loaded with state-of-the-art instruments that will help it to acquire information about the bio-signatures on Mars, its geology, environment, and atmosphere.
Some of the instruments are X-ray spectrometers, imagers, radiation detectors, atmospheric sensors, etc., among others. The Curiosity rover itself weighs 1,982 lbs.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #4: The Seven Phases
Each of the seven phases of the Mars Curiosity mission were distinctly important and are as follows:
- Pre-launch: Preparation activities for the mission that included assembly and inspection, identification of the landing site and delivery to the launch station
- Launch phase: The lift-off from Earth
- Cruise phase: Voyage through space
- Approach phase: The time frame when it neared the planet Mars
- Entry, Descent and Landing phase: Journey through the Martian atmosphere and landing on the surface of the planet
- First Drive phase: Conduction of tests to ensure that Curiosity rover is safe enough to start its exploration work
- Surface Operations phase: The day-to-day work of the Curiosity rover
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #3: Camera and lasers
The Curiosity rover has 17 cameras installed, capable of taking pictures as small as 17 microns (less than the width of a human hair).
The lasers are fixed on top of Curiosity rover’s head, called the Chemcam, which can vaporize anything that crosses their path from a distance of 23 feet.
This data helps the scientists evaluate the toxicity of Mars’ landscape. Each robotic arm of the rover is fitted with a two-inch drill to bore into Martian rocks and the nuclear power system is capable of generating electricity (from plutonium 238 dioxide) for a period of 14 years.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #2: Curiosity, You’re Not Alone
Curiosity is not the only Rover roaming around Mars’ surface. There are two others, Spirit and Opportunity. While Spirit is not in operation any longer, Opportunity has been functional since the year 2004 and continues to add-on miles (or inches) every day.
Mars Curiosity Rover Fact #1: The Wheels on the Bus
With every turn the Curiosity Rover takes on the surface in Mars, the rover’s wheels have treads on them to imprint the letters JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) on the surface.
This is to enable the scientists back on Earth to look at the wheel pictures and determine the distances driven by the rover.
The rover also has an independent suspension and a drive motor system that would help it to roll over boulders of 30 inches.