CURIOSITY on Mars

Curiosity has found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. This geological feature on Mars is exposed bedrock made up of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. Scientists theorize that the bedrock was disrupted in the past, giving it the titled angle, most likely via impacts from meteorites. The key evidence for the ancient stream comes from the size and rounded shape of the gravel in and around the bedrock. Hottah has pieces of gravel embedded in it, called clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size and located within a matrix of sand-sized material. Some of the clasts are round in shape, leading the science team to conclude they were transported by a vigorous flow of water. The grains are too large to have been moved by wind. This image mosaic was taken by Curiosity's 100-millimeter Mastcam telephoto lens on its 39th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Sept. 14, 2012 PDT/Sept. 15 GMT).

This telephoto shot from Curiosity is looking SSW towards Mount Sharp, the central mountain in the crater and ultimate destination for the rover.

The image above shows the various parts of the Curiosity spacecraft after its successful landing.
Here is the first image of the Curiosity rover as it approached the planet suspended from it's parachute.  The image was taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft as the rover was about 3Km above the surface of Mars.
 
NASA's latest and most advanced Mars rover, named Curiosity, has landed on the Red Planet.  The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.  This was the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including final severing of the cords attached to the spacecraft and a flyaway manoeuvre of the rocket backpack.

Curiosity landed at 05:32 UT on 6th August, 2012 near the foot of a mountain 5Km high and 150Km in diameter, inside Gale Crater.  During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favourable for microbial life.

Curiosity immediately returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.

Confirmation of Curiosity's successful landing came in communications relayed by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter and received by the Canberra, Australia, antenna station of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater's interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulphate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information on the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl

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