Mars Science Laboratory

Posted: October 23rd, 2013

Mars Science Laboratory



Mars Science Laboratory

Mars Science Laboratory is a section of the Mars Exploratory Program by NASA. Its mission on Mars was to determine whether the planet’s conditions are capable of supporting life. Therefore, it seeks to identify whether Mars is habitable. This is something Mars Science Laboratory plans to establish by studying samples of drilled rock and soils from the planet to identify if the conditions can support microbial life (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2012). The samples are studied to establish if there is any sign of there having been a presence of life in the past. Mars Science Laboratory is set in a rover, ‘Curiosity’, which is loaded with the equipment necessary for collecting, processing and testing of the required samples.

Mars Science Laboratory landed in Mars in August 6, 2012. Curiosity is larger than any previous rover launched into Mars is. It, however, borrows from the previous rovers in its design and the manner in which it is constructed. Its weight is five times that of the previous exploration rovers, this being Spirit and Opportunity. Unlike the other rovers, where study would occur only through observation, Curiosity has the equipment necessary for fieldwork, where after collection samples are tested in the inbuilt test chambers (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2012). Therefore, Curiosity is a progress from the previous study robots as it allows collection and testing, making it a complete laboratory. This enables more information to be gathered about the chemical properties of features on Mars.

The construction of the rover is also a milestone in improving outside space research methods, as its structure allows it to access more areas than previous rovers could. The improved precision enables it to make a landing that is five times more precise than previous landings. This enables the rover to access areas with high feasibility that would have otherwise been ruled out due to being located in unfavorable terrains. It can store electrical power for a whole Mars year enabling operations to go on uninterrupted for 687 earth days. The high level of precision by this rover is beneficial in the fieldwork especially during surface exploration operations.

The structure of the rover enables the high performance of the functions expected. On its arm, a hand lens imager enables close observation of ground features. Its magnification power is so high that it can view details smaller than a hair’s width. This enables the rover to take images of all the details within its range enabling high precision in the deductions made. An Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer on the arm in the laboratory enables determination of different elements in the samples of rocks and soil collected (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2012). In the rover is an instrument that uses laser beams to vaporize materials on rocks to enable collection of pure samples that are not contaminated. The instrument also has features allowing it to capture images of the area that the beam illuminates as well as deduce which atoms are affected by the beam in some way. Its Mast Camera enables capturing of high definition videos that can be used in the studies. It also has features allowing detection of the radiation level of the surface.

These features in the rover Curiosity have led to progress in the study of Mars’ physical, chemical and radiological features helping NASA to gain ground in the study of the planet’s ability to sustain life. It has also provided vital information that will be very helpful in subsequent researches of Mars.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2012). Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity. Retrieved from:

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