NASA has developed a rover called Curiosity, or, more scientifically Mars Science Laboratory or just MSL. The MSL should be launched in 2011, in November and land on the Martian surface almost a year later, in August 2012. This should be the first vehicle landing with most precision on the planet. Its mission is to find evidence of proper environment for microbial life wither in the past or in the present.
Compared to other rovers such as the Opportunity or the Spirit, the MSL will carry scientific instruments ten times heavier than its predecessors. The instruments will be provided by several countries: the United States, Russia, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. An Atlas V 541 will launch the rover and its mission has a duration of one Martian year, the least.
NASA has a long term objective of exploring the planet Mars with the help of robotic devices and vehicles and MSL is part of this Mars Exploration Program. The cost of the Mars Science Laboratory reaches 2.3 billion Dollars.
Goals and objectives
The main goals of the MSL project are: finding evidence of life on Mars, determine the Martian climate, determine the Martian geology and prepare a future human exploration. In order to support these main goals, the project has further eight objectives concerning scientific research:
1. To identify and inventory the organic compounds of Carbon.
2. Catalogue the chemical components of life forms: oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus.
3. Detect possible evidence of biological processes.
4. Explore the composition of the surface in terms of mineralogical, isotopic and chemical elements, as well as the geological materials present in the near-surface.
5. Find explanations for how the soils and rocks were formed and modified.
6. Evaluate the processes of the atmospheric evolution on a long timescale.
7. Identify how carbon dioxide and water are distributed, what their state and cycles are.
7. Describe all the surface radiation which includes cosmic radiation, galactic radiation, secondary neutrons and solar proton events.