Photo Essay: Curiosity’s Mission to Mars

Key moments in the rover’s journey from NASA’s JPL to the surface of the red planet.

Aug 9, 2012
Curiosity’s wheel suspension system was tested using a simple ramp in 2010. Successfully navigating Mars’ rocky terrain will be critical if it is to cover as much ground as possible during its time on the red planet.
NASA engineers used a crane to move Curiosity to an elevated platform, where its science boom and instrument mast were tested. During its mission, the rover will use a laser to look inside rocks and release gases for its spectrometer to analyze. It also carries high-powered microscopes and chemistry equipment.
Curiosity’s head includes several instruments. MastCam, a dual-camera system that shoots Mars in high-definition stereo video and multispectral color, is covered by two pieces of silver protective material. ChemCam, which includes a laser and camera, is covered with a red eye patch. Two sets of two lenses, shown on either side of the MastCam cameras, are the rover’s navigation cameras.
A “Mars Yard” mimicking the red planet’s rough terrain served as an obstacle course for prototype rovers to test their navigation mettle.
This test chamber was used to simulate the conditions that the cruise stage spacecraft carrying Curiosity would experience during its mission.
This image shows half of the housing that protected Curiosity during launch. It provided protection from sound, atmospheric pressure, and heat.
The first image captured by Curiosity’s navigation camera shows the rover silhouetted against the Sun on Martian soil.