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Mars Science Laboratory


Viewing Spark Generated by ChemCam Laser for Mars Rover
The ChemCam instrument for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission uses a pulsed laser beam to vaporize a pinhead-size target, producing a flash of light from the ionized material -- plasma -- that can be analyzed to identify chemical elements in the target.

Landing at Gale Crater, Mars Science Laboratory is assessing whether Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life. Determining past habitability on Mars gives NASA and the scientific community a better understanding of whether life could have existed on the red planet and, if it could have existed, an idea of where to look for it in the future.

Contribution to Mars Exploration Program Science Goals:The Mars Science Laboratory mission and its Curiosity rover mark a transition between the themes of "Follow the Water" and "Seek Signs of Life." In addition to landing in a place with past evidence of water, Curiosity is seeking evidence of organics, the chemical building blocks of life. Places with water and the chemistry needed for life potentially provide habitable conditions. This mission is part of a series of expeditions to the red planet that help meet the four main science goals of the Mars Exploration Program:

Goal 1 image

Goal 2 image

Goal 3 image

Goal 4 image
Determine whether life ever arose on Mars

Characterize the climate of Mars
Characterize the geology of Mars
Prepare for human exploration

Objectives: Mars Science Laboratory intends to meet these goals by accomplishing eight specific objectives.

For a description of how Mars Science Laboratory is collecting data in support of these goals and objectives, please see science instruments in the Mission Section.