There are no gas stations or power outlets in space. That's why NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars--and some other NASA spacecraft that explore the solar system--use something called "radioisotope power." NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working with the Department of Energy on ways to make the next generation of radioisotope power systems even more powerful and capable. This video explains more.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has clocked more than a decade of service at the Red Planet and has yielded scientific These images taken by MRO's HiRISE camera are not in true color because they include infrared information in order to be optimized for geological science.
2015 marks 50 years of successful NASA missions to Mars starting with Mariner 4 in 1965. Since then, a total of 15 robotic missions led by various NASA centers have laid the groundwork for future human missions to the Red Planet. The journey to Mars continues with additional robotic missions planned for 2016 and 2020, and human missions in the 2030s.
The sparks that appear on the baseball-sized rock result from the laser of the ChemCam instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover hitting the rock.
ChemCam's laser zapping of this particular rock was the first time the team used Curiosity's arm-mounted Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera to try and capture images of the spark generated by the laser hitting a rock on Mars.
The process, called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, hits a target with pulses from a laser to generate sparks, whose spectra provide information about which chemical elements are in the target. Multiple laser shots are fired in sequence, each blasting away a thin layer of material so that the following shot examines a slightly deeper layer. In this case, "Nova" displayed an increasing concentration of aluminum as a series of laser shots from the rover penetrated through dust on the rock's surface.
The video is compiled from single images from the MAHLI camera, taken during the 687th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (July 12, 2014).
On June 24, 2014, NASA's Curiosity rover completes her first Martian year (687 Earth days). Hear team members describe how the mission accomplished its main goal to find a past habitable environment on the Red Planet and the ongoing science studies.
This animation is a shorter clip from the video "Curiosity and MAVEN Explore Mars." While Curiosity will not be able to see MAVEN as it arrives at Mars, the rover welcomes the orbiter's discoveries. Curiosity is able to study the lower Martian atmosphere, while MAVEN will study the upper, both to help understand the history of the Martian climate and Mars as a past habitat. Curiosity may be able to view MAVEN when its orbit passes over Gale Crater at dusk, similar to viewing a low-earth-orbiting (LEO) satellite around Earth. MAVEN is larger and flies lower, and Curiosity's cameras are better, so this animation imagines a similar sighting. The animation ends with a celebration of MAVEN, which will help in understanding Mars' climate history and uncovering when and how long Mars may have had an environment more favorable to microbial life than found today.
This animation first shows Curiosity working to understand Mars as a past habitat, with a cut to MAVEN arriving at Mars to study the upper Martian atmosphere. Curiosity will not be able to 'see' MAVEN on its arrival. Later in the mission, Curiosity may be able to view MAVEN when its orbit passes over Gale Crater at dusk, similar to viewing a low-earth-orbiting (LEO) satellite around Earth. MAVEN is larger and flies lower, and Curiosity's cameras are better, so this animation imagines a similar sighting. The animation ends with a celebration of MAVEN, which will help in understanding Mars' climate history and uncovering when and how long Mars may have had an environment more favorable to microbial life than found today.
This movie clip shows Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars, passing overhead, as observed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in a series of images centered straight overhead starting shortly after sunset. Phobos first appears near the lower center of the view and moves toward the top of the view. The clip runs at accelerated speed; the amount of time covered in it is about 27 minutes.
The 86 frames combined into this clip were taken by the rover's Navigation Camera (Navcam) on the 317th Martian day of Curiosity's work on Mars (June 28, 2013, PDT). The apparent ring about halfway between the center of the frames and the edges is an artifact of the imaging due to scattering of light inside the camera.
This sequence of images from the Front Hazard-Avoidance Camera on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the rover drilling into rock target 'Cumberland.' The drilling was performed during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the Curiosity's work on Mars (May 19, 2013). The video runs at accelerated speed and loops the sequence of images four times. The actual elapsed time is 25 minutes.
The Curiosity rover mission to Mars is one of NASA's most complex and incredible successes. This 45-second trailer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory takes you from designing and testing the rover to the thrilling landing and new views of the mysterious Red Planet.
Has Mars ever had the right ingredients for life? What are organic molecules, and what can they tell us about the history of Mars? Learn more in this 60-second video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This animation of NASA's Curiosity rover shows the complicated suite of operations involved in conducting the rover's first rock sample drilling on Mars and transferring the sample to the rover's scoop for inspection. The drilling and sample transfer took place on Feb. 8 and 20, 2013, or sols 182 and 193, Curiosity's 182nd and 193rd Martian days of operations.
This video clip shows moments during a demonstration of drilling into a rock at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., with a test double of the Mars rover Curiosity. The drill combines hammering and rotation motions of the bit.
The "keys" to NASA's Mars rovers are in the capable hands of the official rover drivers. Learn how they operate the vehicles from millions of miles away in this 60-second video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This animation shows how the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was positioned for taking multiple images that were later combined into a self-portrait of the rover. The animation was made using software that rover planners use to design Curiosity's movements.
This video clip shows the first Martian material collected by the scoop on the robotic arm of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, being vibrated inside the scoop after it was lifted from the ground on Oct. 7, 2012. The clip includes 256 frames from Curiosity's Mast Camera, taken at about eight frames per second, plus interpolated frames to run at actual speed in this 32-frames-per-second version. The scoop was vibrated to discard any overfill. Churning due to vibration also serves to show physical characteristics of the collected material, such as an absence of pebbles. The scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long.
NASA scientists and engineers prepare Mars Curiosity rover for its first scoop of soil for analysis.The rover's ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments is central to assessing whether its present location on Mars, called Gale Crater, ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
This video, presented at four times actual speed, shows a test using an engineering model of the soil scoop for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The scoop dips to about 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters) deep. This test took place at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., in 2011.
Curiosity's scoop will collect soil samples to be sieved, processed and delivered to analytical instruments inside the rover.
This engineering animation depicts the moves that NASA's rover Curiosity made on Sept. 22, 2012, when the rover touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time. Curiosity examined the rock with instruments on the arm. This animation was made with the software that engineers used for planning the maneuver: Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program.
This simulation shows planned movements of the arm on NASA's Curiosity rover for round one of its robotic arm checkouts, expected to run on Sol 33 (Sept. 8, 2012). This so-called "teach point" checkout activity consists of repeating arm moves and taking images with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to match those acquired on Earth prior to launch. This ensures that the calibration and placement accuracy of the arm is within expected levels on Mars, which has different environmental conditions, such as weaker gravity.
This engineering tool, called the Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program (RSVP) helps engineers plan the rover's motions and drives. The visualization component of the RSVP tool is called Hyperdrive. (No audio)
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission listen to a voice message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the mission support area at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The message, which had been sent to Mars and back, was played for the team on Aug. 27, 2012.
This animation shows how NASA's Curiosity rover communicates with Earth via two of NASA's Mars orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express. The rover sends the signals to the orbiters, which then passes them on to Earth. This allows for more data to be transmitted at a faster rate.
The paths of the orbiters around Mars are shown, in addition to the location of Curiosity within Gale Crater. The movie then switches to the perspective of the rover, showing the route of MRO overhead.
Back on Earth, the signals are picked up by large antenna dishes at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three complexes in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. The DSN sends the information to Curiosity's mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif.
This movie from NASA's Curiosity rover shows most of the high-resolution frames acquired by the Mars Descent Imager between the jettison of the heat shield and touchdown. The video, obtained on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT), covers the last two-and-a-half minutes before touchdown in Gale Crater.
Audio recorded from mission control can be heard, counting down the critical events.
This simulation shows the first test drive of NASA's Curiosity rover. This tool, called the Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program (RSVP) helps engineers plan the rover's drives, modeling pebbles and bumps in the terrain. The visualization component of the RSVP tool is called Hyperdrive.
The tool shows the sped-up plan for the drive; the actual drive took place at 7:17 a.m. PDT (10:17 a.m. EDT) on Aug. 22, 2012, and lasted about 16 minutes. The drive demonstrated that the wheel actuators, or motors, are working.
To start its forward drive, Curiosity's drove about 3 feet (90 centimeters), rotating its wheels 180 degrees, before stopping to take pictures of the wheels. It then continued forward another 12 feet (3.6 meters), totaling 15 feet (4.5 meters) of forward motion. The rover then rotated 120 degrees, stopping again during the turn to take more pictures. Finally, Curiosity rolled backward 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) and snapped more pictures from its final location. The total drive distance was nearly 23 feet (7 meters). Curiosity is now about 20 feet (6 meters) from its landing site, called Bradbury Landing, and more than 16 feet (5 meters) from the scour mark called Goulburn, which scientists are currently investigating.
This short video clip shows final testing of the mast unit of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument for NASA's Curiosity before it was installed on the rover. An iron pyrite crystal was used as a target, located about 2.5 meters (8 feet) from the instrument. The laser was fired, first at 3 Hertz (pulses per second) and then at 10 Hertz. The last spark was captured as a still image to better display the size and shape of the plasma, or ionized gas. The test, performed at Earth's atmospheric pressure, took place at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which assembled and tested the instrument.
This video steps viewers through a portion of the choreography needed to land NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. It starts with a computer simulation from NASA's Eyes on the Solar System program and uses actual images from Curiosity's Mars Descent Imager. It ends with a high-resolution color image from Curiosity's Mast Camera.
This animation depicts movements of the robotic arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity as commanded for Aug. 20, 2012, the first time the arm was used on Mars. The animation is derived from visualization software that rover planners use in developing the commands sent to the rover.
This sequence of images shows the heat shield from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory hitting the ground on Mars and raising a cloud of dust. The images were taken by the Mars Descent Imager on the mission's Curiosity rover while the rover was still suspended on a parachute, after the spacecraft had jettisoned the heat shield.
A dark spot, the shadow of the heat shield, enters the scene from lower left, moving toward the center. The bright heat shield itself is also apparent just before the shadow and hardware meet in the impact on the surface. The area of ground visible in the images is about six-tenths of a mile (1 kilometer) across. The frames shown here are cropped portions of full-frame images from the Mars Descent Imager.
The sequence includes 25 frames, repeated in five run-throughs for this presentation. The action is full speed in the first, fourth and fifth run-throughs. It is one-half and one-eighth speeds in the second and third run-throughs.
This animation depicts the location of the ChemCam instrument at the top of the mast on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and the field of view of the instrument's camera, called the Remote Micro-Imager. In the animation, the camera is pointed at ChemCam's calibration target on Curiosity's deck.
President Obama phoned the team at JPL on Monday, Aug. 13, to congratulate them on the successful landing of Curiosity. "It's inspiring to all of us. Photographs that are coming back are going to be remarkable and amazing," President Obama said.
This movie from NASA's Curiosity rover shows all the "thumbnail" (low-resolution) frames acquired by the Mars Descent Imager between the jettison of the heat shield and touchdown. The video, obtained on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT), covers the last two and a half minutes before touchdown in Gale Crater. Full resolution images will be returned to Earth over the next several months as Curiosity begins its scientific exploration of Mars.
The original image from MARDI has been geometrically corrected to look flat. The video plays at about four frames per second.
This movie begins with an expansive 360-degree view from NASA's Curiosity rover, showing the surrounding terrain within Gale Crater, then zooms in on the rover's deck. The full-resolution images were taken by the rover's Navigation camera.
This video of thumbnail images from the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) on NASA's Curiosity rover shows the heat shield dropping away from the rover on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). It covers the first 25 seconds of MARDI observations as Curiosity descends toward the surface of Mars.
The video starts in darkness because there is no illumination inside the aeroshell. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Follow along on a tour of the landing scene of NASA's Curiosity rover in this video made up of images from two NASA orbiters. The movie begins with a global image from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, then switches to views from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As we zoom closer and closer into Gale Crater, the components of Curiosity's landing system come into view: The heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
This animation shows the approximate true position of NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. A 3-D virtual model of Curiosity is shown inside Gale Crater, near Mount Sharp, Curiosity's ultimate destination.
Like any wise hiker heading out on a trip, Curiosity will do a self-check to make sure her tools are working before she makes her way to the foot of Mount Sharp.
This animation is derived from a virtual rover experience where the public can be an explorer and follow in Curiosity's journey day by day. Using the Unity game engine plug-in, the public can see what Curiosity is up to and follow in her footsteps as she explores.
This animation shows NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flying over NASA's Curiosity (shown in pink) as the rover lands on the Red Planet. The video is slowed down as the orbiter approaches the landing site for better viewing. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will capture data during Curiosity's entry, descent and landing for later playback to Earth. Its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera will attempt to take an image of Curiosity as it descends to the surface (green).
HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the orbiter's HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft.
This artist's animation shows how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth via two of NASA's Mars orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dashes) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles). Odyssey will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth (seen as a beam of small blue circles). Meanwhile, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time.
Back on Earth, the rover's signals are picked up by large antenna dishes at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three complexes in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. The DSN sends the information to Curiosity's mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif.
The artist's animation depicts how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to Mars, it will send out basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth. NASA's Odyssey orbiter will then relay more complex UHF radio signals from the rover to Earth.
Between 2006 and 2011, engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., conducted a series of aerial tests on the radar that will be used to land NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. Using a NASA Dryden F/A-18 Hornet and a Eurocopter AS350 helicopter, they tested the radar's performance at different altitudes and velocities over a simulated Martian terrain in the Southern California high desert.
This video shows an engineering test for NASA's Curiosity rover, which took place during Assembly, Test and Launch Operations (ATLO), a project phase that occurs when all components are integrated, tested and launched. During the test shown here in slow motion, the clear dust covers on the Hazard-Avoidance cameras were popped off.
Engineers who designed the entry, descent and landing system for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity candidly talk about the new landing system, and describe the challenges of Curiosity's final moments before touchdown on Aug. 5, 2012, at 10:31pm PDT.
Curiosity's dramatic landing on Mars is the most difficult and nail-biting part of the whole mission. This 60-second video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows what it takes to touch down successfully.
Curiosity is a big part of what it means to be human. It's also the name of NASA's next Mars rover. This 60-second video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows how one type of curiosity can inspire another.
NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26, 2011, launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST (7:02 a.m.
Transporting the Curiosity rover from its birthplace in Pasadena, California to Cape Canaveral, Florida, took countless hours and careful planning and preparation. The precious rover was placed onto a flatbed truck using a forklift; was driven down the highway for several miles and flown on a military transport plane for its cross country trip.
This episode (part 4 of a 4 part series) shows Mars team members having a little fun on April 1, 2010 (April Fool's) at the end of an exhausting parachute test campaign. The team had just completed testing the parachute for the next Mars rover, Curiosity. Curiosity used a similar parachute to successfully land on Mars in August 2012.
This video (part 3 of a 4 part series) shows engineers testing a new parachute in the largest wind tunnel on Earth for the Curiosity rover prior to its launch and landing. Curiosity used a similar parachute to successfully land on Mars in August 2012.
This video (part 2 of a 4 part series) shows engineers testing a new parachute in the largest wind tunnel on Earth for the Curiosity rover. Curiosity used a similar parachute to successfully land on Mars in August 2012.
This video (part 1 of a 4 part series) shows engineers testing a new parachute in the largest wind tunnel on Earth for the Curiosity rover prior to its launch and landing. Curiosity used a similar parachute to successfully land on Mars in August 2012.