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RPS: Radioisotope Power Systems
Mars Science Laboratory
NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover used the camera on its robotic arm to capture dozens of high-resolution images that were combined into this self-portrait image.

Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity"

  • Launched on Nov. 26, 2011
  • Designed to seek signs of habitability on past or present Mars

Powered by: one MMRTG for power and heat

Goals: NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a large, powerful science rover designed to study the layered rocks of Gale Crater on the Red Planet. Its main objectives are to try to determine if life ever arose on Mars, to characterize the planet's climate and geology, and to help prepare for human exploration.

During its two-year primary mission, Curiosity will analyze samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover. Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.

Accomplishments: The rover successfully landed on Aug. 5, 2012 using guided entry and a sky crane system - new techniques that enhance NASA's capabilities for delivering payloads to the surface of Mars.

More about Mars Science Laboratory >

Images from Curiosity >

Computer-generated view of Gale crater, where MSL is investigating the past and present habitability of Mars.

Curiosity took this image showing its MMRTG on the surface of Mars on Aug. 7, 2012.
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Last Updated: 12 Dec 2012