To find out, the rover carries the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments ever sent to the martian surface. The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet's climate and geology is essentially written in the rocks and soi" -- in their formation, structure, and chemical composition. The rover's on board laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.
10:02 a.m. EST, Nov. 26, 2011
United Launch Alliance, Atlas V
1:32 a.m EDT, Aug. 6, 2012
The 3-mile-high mound has multiple rock layers. Each rock layer reveals a different time in Mars´ history. Some have clays and sulfates, which both form in water.
To power these instruments, Curiosity uses electricity provided by a battery that is continuously recharged by heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium-238. It will take about 110 watts of electricity to run the rover and its instruments.
The heat shield reached around 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit!
Next the actual rover was lowered from the descent vehicle by three nylon ropes, called a "Sky Crane".
By the time Curiosity touched down, the rover was slowed to about two miles per hour. Less than seven minutes before, it was traveling at 13,000 miles per hour!