Overview

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.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its black-and-white navigation cameras to capture panoramas of this scene at two times of day. Blue, orange, and green color was added to a combination of both panoramas for an artistic interpretation of the scene.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its black-and-white navigation cameras to capture panoramas of this scene at two times of day. Blue, orange, and green colors were added to a combination of both panoramas for an artistic interpretation of the scene.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Objectives

To contribute to the four Mars exploration science goals and meet its specific goal of determining Mars' habitability, Curiosity has the following science objectives:

Biological objectives

1. Determine the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds
2. Inventory the chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur)
3. Identify features that may represent the effects of biological processes

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured this image of rhythmic rock layers with a repetitive pattern in their spacing and thickness.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured this image of rhythmic rock layers with a repetitive pattern in their spacing and thickness.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Geological and geochemical objectives

1. Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials
2. Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils

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A colorful collection of 36 images that show drill holes in the rocks and soil of Mars.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has collected 36 powderized rock samples with the drill on the end of its robotic arm. This grid shows all 36 holes to date. The images in the grid were captured by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the end of Curiosity’s arm.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Planetary process objectives

1. Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) atmospheric evolution processes
2. Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide

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NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured a partial image of a geologic feature called "Greenheugh Pediment." In the foreground is the crusty sandstone cap that stretches the length of the pediment, forming an overhanging ledge in some parts.
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured a partial image of a geologic feature called "Greenheugh Pediment." In the foreground is the crusty sandstone cap that stretches the length of the pediment, forming an overhanging ledge in some parts. At center is the "clay-bearing unit," a region with a unique story to tell about the history of water on Mount Sharp, the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain Curiosity has been ascending since 2014.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Surface radiation objective

Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic cosmic radiation, solar proton events, and secondary neutrons

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The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is helping prepare for future human exploration of Mars. RAD measures the type and amount of harmful radiation that reaches the Martian surface from the sun and space sources.
The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is helping prepare for future human exploration of Mars. RAD measures the type and amount of harmful radiation that reaches the Martian surface from the sun and space sources.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

Science Instruments

From cameras to environmental and atmospheric sensors, the Curiosity rover has a suite of state-of-the-art science instruments to achieve its goals.

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From cameras to environmental and atmospheric sensors, the Curiosity rover has a suite of state-of-the-art science instruments to achieve its goals.
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