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03.18.2011

Next Mars Rover Gets a Test Taste of Mars Conditions

Bright Days Ahead for Curiosity Mars Rover
Bleft Days Ahead for Curiosity Mars Rover
This image shows preparation for one phase of testing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

A space-simulation chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is temporary home this month for the Curiosity rover, which will land on Mars next year.

Tests inside the 25-foot-diameter chamber (7.6-meters) are putting the rover through various sequences in environmental conditions resembling Martian surface conditions. After the chamber's large door was sealed last week, air was pumped out to near-vacuum pressure, liquid nitrogen in the walls dropped the temperature to minus 130 degrees Celsius (minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit), and a bank of powerful lamps simulated the intensity of sunshine on Mars.

Images of Curiosity in the chamber just before the door was sealed are at: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13805 and http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13806

Other portions of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the cruise stage, descent stage and backshell, remain in JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility, where Curiosity was assembled and where the rover will return after the simulation-chamber tests. In coming months, those flight system components and the rover will be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final preparations before the launch period of Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011.

Preparing for Solar and Thermal Testing of Curiosity Mars Rover
Preparing for Solar and Thermal Testing of Curiosity Mars Rover
This image shows preparation for March 2011 testing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, in a 25-foot-diameter (7.6-meter-diameter) space-simulation chamber. The testing was designed to put the rover through operational sequences in environmental conditions similar to what it will experience on the surface of Mars.

The mission will use Curiosity to study one of the most intriguing places on Mars -- still to be selected from among four finalist landing-site candidates. It will study whether a selected area of Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and for preserving evidence about whether Martian life has existed.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.  For more information about the mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl .

2011-086

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov


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