How Things Work: Dropping in on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover will try a new way of landing on another planet

(Harry Whitver)

Mission Tools

Mission Tools
Powered by a nuclear battery, Curiosity will be able to analyze soil and rocks that earlier rovers could only inspect.

1. The rover’s head-like mast has color cameras for wide views and close-ups, and a ChemCam for determining chemical composition of the rocks from afar.

2. Weather sensors track wind, humidity, temperature, and pressure.

3. A mini-laboratory in the rover’s body heats soil until it vaporizes, so a laser spectrometer can identify any organic elements.

4. An arm-mounted “turret” includes a drill and a scooper that collects samples for the lab.

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