The Next Mars Rover – Curiosity
Posted on June 20, 2011
NASA announced in late May that they will cease to attempt to re-establish contact with their previous exploration rover “Spirit” which last communicated on March 22, 2010. Spirit drove 7.73 kilometers on Mars and returned 124,000 images to Earth and inspected 92 rock targets with spectrometers and a microscopic imager so it outperformed itself on every level. Spirit landed on Mars in 2004 – for a mission designed to last only three months. (RIP)
But now it’s time for Curiosity to continue the exploration on the desolate landscapes on Mars. The rover is currently being built in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The Curiosity rover will be more than five times as massive, and carry more than ten times the mass of scientific instruments, as the rovers Spirit or Opportunity. The MSL Curiosity rover will be launched by an Atlas V 541 rocket and will be expected to operate for at least 1 Martian year (668 Martian sols/686 Earth days) as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover. Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of Mars, and is a project managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology for NASA. The total cost of the MSL project is about US$2.3 billion.
This week, Boing Boing was invited to visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the first and only opportunity for media to enter the Pasadena, CA clean room where NASA’s next Mars rover, Curiosity, and other components of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft have been built for launch in late 2011 from Florida.
Shipment from the clean room to Florida will begin next month. Curiosity rover recently completed tests under simulated space and Mars-surface environmental conditions in another building and is back in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for other tests. Spacecraft assembly and testing specialists showed Boing Boing the rover and the other spacecraft components, including the descent stage “sky crane.” “
Photos by Joseph Linaschke
See more photos at Boing Boing.