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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A “Mars Yard” mimicking the red planet’s rough terrain served as an obstacle course for prototype rovers to test their navigation mettle.

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This test chamber was used to simulate the conditions that the cruise stage spacecraft carrying Curiosity would experience during its mission.

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This image shows half of the housing that protected Curiosity during launch. It provided protection from sound, atmospheric pressure, and heat.

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The first image captured by Curiosity’s navigation camera shows the rover silhouetted against the Sun on Martian soil.

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