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Mars rover Curiosity embodiment of advancement in probe technologies (2)


14:46, August 06, 2012

In stark contrast, Curiosity's designed route extends over 19 km and it is set to climb a mountain on the Mars surface.

Curiosity also has a much advanced power system. Solar panels used by previous Mars rovers are susceptible to seasonal changes on Mars and could only provide limited energy for the rovers. As a nuclear-powered vehicle, Curiosity is equipped with nuclear-fuel batteries with a designed working life of 14 years.

Unlike previous Mars rovers, Curiosity has a drilling device that could allow it to take samples from inside rocks.

For a geologist studying rocks, there is nothing more exciting than getting samples from within the rocks, deputy project scientist Joy Crisp said.

In addition, the chemistry and mineral analytical instruments on board Curiosity use X-ray diffraction for the first time to determine the composition of rock and soil samples collected by the rover.

The much sophisticated design of Curiosity makes it possible for the vehicle to carry out much complicated tasks such as measuring the relative abundances of different elements in rocks and soils, assessing radiation levels on Mars surface and detecting possible harms for future astronauts to land on the planet.

The rover, described as a "flagship NASA project as important as Hubble Space Telescope" by NASA's Mars Exploration Program Director Doug McCuistion, will also conduct further exploration to find if Mars could be inhabitable for human beings and look for clues of planetary changes.
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