If the car-size Mars Science Laboratory rover overheats or if it stalls because it's cold, you can't call a tow truck on Mars! To keep the rover running, engineers just installed a pump system similar to a car's radiator.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will launch two years later than previously planned, in the fall of 2011. The mission will send a next-generation rover with unprecedented research tools to study the early environmental history of Mars.
When you're training for a tough task, role-playing games can prepare you for the real thing. Scientists play "games" too. Sixty Mars scientists from around the world just finished four exercises to practice directing the Mars Science Laboratory rover's activities after it lands.
Electing where to send a rover on the diverse landscape of Mars is no easy task. With a lot at stake, two sides of the Mars team--scientists and engineers--have been lobbying for the best candidate landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.
Just as jewelry makers take care to set a gem in a ring, a tireless team has been working late hours to tuck the Mars Science Laboratory rover inside its intricate, protective aeroshell and mount it for the first time on a giant gold "ring" (the cruise structure).
Humans can't go to Mars (yet), but at least for now, we can send extensions of ourselves. Mars Science Laboratory's rover will be the hardiest geologist the red planet's seen yet, going farther and into rougher terrain than ever before.
When you have just one chance to land Mars' biggest rover, you have to practice - a lot. So, how do you copy a high-speed descent on Mars? Strap special sensors to an F/A-18 jet at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center.
Hot off a special delivery truck from Lockheed Martin in Denver comes the aeroshell for the Mars Science Laboratory rover. Like two pieces of a giant clam, the aeroshell's backshell and the heatshield come together to protect the rover and the propulsion stage that safely delivers it to the surface of Mars.
When it descends through the Martian sky, the Mars Science Laboratory rover will "hang six," riding the Martian wind. The descent stage will lower the rover to the ground using a "Bridle Umbilical Device."
The Mars tribe has spoken. After searching far and wide for a landing site that can tell them if Mars was ever livable for microscopic life, the tribe of Mars experts has eliminated dozens of contenders. Only seven survive (labeled in white).
Like a racecar in need of high-performance tires, the next rover to explore Mars needs a rugged set of wheels. Like the racing tires, the off-road wheels must perform flawlessly. Together with a rugged suspension system, they must be lightweight, strong, and agile enough to handle extreme terrain. takes a lot of drilling to prepare to use a drill 100 million miles away, beyond the reach of humans. The Mars Science Laboratory rover is wasting no time doing just that. With an industrial-strength drill, the rover will pulverize the inside of hard, volcanic rocks on Mars and study the powder.
It takes a lot of drilling to prepare to use a drill 100 million miles away, beyond the reach of humans. The Mars Science Laboratory rover is wasting no time doing just that. With an industrial-strength drill, the rover will pulverize the inside of hard, volcanic rocks on Mars and study the powder.
Mars rovers appear to be shrinking with age! The biggest, baddest, newest rover being built is the Mars Science Laboratory rover (right). It's the size of a small sport-utility vehicle. Still exploring Mars four years after landing are the dune-buggy-sized rovers Spirit and Opportunity (left). The first-generation rover, Sojourner, is the size of a microwave oven.
The next set of "eyes" to journey to Mars are already busy observing people and objects on Earth. Keen vision will be essential to keeping the Mars Science Laboratory rover, a vehicle the size of a small SUV, out of trouble amid the red planet's cliffs, sand, and boulders.
Engineers worked late on March 7th, "keeping time" with an aggressive schedule for building the Mars Science Laboratory rover. Getting into a new rhythm of hard work to come, the mission team was upbeat as they kicked off a mission phase called ATLO (Assembly, Testing, and Launch Operations).
Like salt used as a preservative, high concentrations of dissolved minerals in the wet, early-Mars environment known from discoveries by NASA's Opportunity rover may have thwarted any microbes from developing or surviving.