The Curious Life Of A Mars Rover: Curiosity


The Martian rover curiosity was the first rover to be launched under the nuclear power train. It was a successor to the previous rovers Spirit and Opportunity which were very successful. It was launched on 26th November 2011 and landed the following year on 5th August 2012. Curiosity was built to last for one Martian year and to drive for 20 km but at the time of writing this article it has been 8 years and our rover is still going strong and has covered about 45 km. The payload was carried out to the red planet in Lockheed Martin rocket.

Actual Photo of Curiosity Present on the Surface of Mars
Height Comparison of Mount Sharp Present on Mars
  • Characterize the climate of Mars.
  • Determine whether life ever existed on Mars.
  • Prepare for human exploration.

Watch the thrilling moment in NASA headquarters at the time of Landing:

A NASA video of Curiosity’s Landing


The name of the Curiosity was chosen from a nationwide essay contest just like the Spirit and Opportunity rover. A sixth-grade student from Kansas, 12-year-old Clara Ma submitted the winning entry. As her prize, Ma won a trip to NASA’s JPL in California where she signed her name directly on the rover as it was being assembled. Pretty cool if ask me.

Clara Ma’s Interview on the Naming Scheme

Scientific Cameras on the Rover

Curiosity is a hub for expensive and rare scientific instruments that are particularly used for Mars exploration. Some of the instruments are:-

  1. ChemCam
    It is a suite of two remote sensing instruments combined as one: a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) telescope. It was developed by the French CESR laboratory.
    The ChemCam has the ability to record up to 6,114 different wavelengths of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light.
    The first initial laser testing was performed on a rock, N165 (“Coronation” rock), near Bradbury Landing on August 19, 2012.
ChemCam on Curiosity
All the Instruments on Curiosity Rover


Better Power Source

Spirit and Opportunity got their power from converting the energy of the Sun to electrical energy through its solar panels. But this had a major problem as there are numerous dust storms on Mars which gets accumulated on the surface of solar panels and reduced the converting capacity of the solar panels from the already reduced solar radiation from the Sun due to increased distance.
But where there is bad there is something good to compensate for it as there are wind clouds which clean the accumulated dust from the surface of the rover and make sure it gets enough heat to generate electricity.

Bigger & Better

The curiosity is as big as a regular SUV. It is 9 feet 10 inches long by 9 feet 1 inch wide (3m by 2.8 m) and about 7 feet high (2.1 m). It weighs 2,000 lbs (900 kg). Its wheelbase has a 20 inch (50.8 cm) diameter.
It was designed by the NASA engineers to roll over obstacles up to 25 inches (65 centimeters) high and to travel up to 660 feet (200m) a day.

Size Comparison of Curiosity, Spirit, and the Very First Rover Sojourner


  • Every year on 5th August, Curiosity celebrates its birthday by singing the “birthday song” through its SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars). It produces a simple electronic sound that can be altered at different intensities to produce high and low pitch sounds. At the time of writing this article, Curiosity has celebrated 8 birthdays on Mars.
Happy Birthday- 5th Aug
JPL Written on the Wheels of the Rover in Mohr’s Code
  • Curiosity forms the basis of the future Mars mission as it proved very successful in its own right. From its landing technique to its power source everything worked just fine on Mars. As a result of that NASA engineers will base the future rover on Curiosity. The rover Persereverance is based on Curiosity and will carry more new instruments than ever before making it a true successor of Curiosity.
    Earlier power sources consisted of solar panels but Curiosity's power source had nuclear energy. This proved to be a good choice and design as it didn’t get any problems from the dust accumulated on the surface. Nuclear power worked like a charm.
Mars 2020 is Based on Curiosity

For a Complete Graphical Experience of the Curiosity Rover:-

NASA’s Official Video of Curiosity’s Entry, Descent & Landing (EDL)