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Curiosity rover

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342

Curiosity rover

OLogy Series
tool

If there's life on any other planet in our solar system, it's probably on Mars. Scientists have sent orbiters, landers, and rovers to the Red Planet in search of clues of life. The Curiosity rover
is the latest and most advanced step in this quest. This one-ton science lab will land on Mars inside Gale Crater, which may be a dried up lake. Using scientific instruments, the car-sized rover will examine the crater for signs of past or present life.

Science Lab on Wheels
The surface of Mars is dry and barren. No animals, plants, or even bacteria have yet been found. There's not even soil for anything to grow in, just reddish-orange colored rocks and dust.

Curiosity's mission is to analyze layers of sediment for evidence of life. It will climb a 3-mile (5-km) mountain over rugged rocks. And it'll take several years to examine them!

Here's a look at some of its tools:

  • 3D cameras that rotate to capture images in any direction
  • an X-ray machine to analyze and identify minerals
  • a water detector to locate ice underground
  • a laser beam to check the composition of rocks from afar
  • a robot arm to smash, scoop up, and examine frozen rocks
  • a magnifying glass and camera
  • a small weather station to measure temperature, humidity, wind speed, and air pressure

Curiosity will land near the mountain in Gale Crater. Why was this crater selected as the landing site?

This is where other rovers are found.

It has a soft surface for a safe landing.

The crater was once filled with water.

Are you right?

Correct!

Curiosity is the first rover to explore Gale Crater. Millions of years ago, the crater was filled with water. The channels and sediment left behind are great places to look for life. Curiosity will slowly climb to the top of the crater, studying each layer of sediment as it goes.

The spacecraft carrying Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011. Its journey to Mars will take about:

8 weeks

8 months

8 years

Are you right?

Correct!

Curiosity is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars in August 2012. Once there, it has enough power to explore the inside of Gale Crater for several years.

The rover's name, Curiosity, was selected by:

an astronaut

drawing straws

a naming contest

Are you right?

Correct!

The Curiosity was suggested by Clara Ma,
a 12-year-old girl from Kansas. For winning the "Mars Science Laboratory Naming Contest," Clara got to sign her name on the rover before it was launched into space.

Curiosity can fire a laser to vaporize (turn into gas) pieces of rocks from a distance.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The laser can vaporize rocks up to 30 feet
(9 m) away! Back on the rover, instruments called spectrometers "read" the vaporized gases to see what the rock is made of.

Astronauts will travel in the spacecraft that carries Curiosity to Mars.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

There are no humans aboard Curiosity. But scientists hope the rover will collect critical information about Mars that will make a human mission possible in the future.

Curiosity is the first rover to explore the surface of Mars.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

The first rover landed in 1997. The two most recent are Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003. But Curiosity is bigger, heavier, and more advanced than any previous Mars rover.

Description: most advanced rover to explore the surface of Mars
Destination: Gale Crater, Mars
Launch/Arrival: November 2011/August 2012
Instruments: include 3-D cameras, lasers, x-ray machine, radiation and water detectors, and a small weather station
Weight: 1 ton (2,000 pounds, 907 kg)
Cool Fact: Its constant power comes from thermonuclear energy. So it runs without sunlight!