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The Mars Science Laboratory and its rover centerpiece, Curiosity, is the most ambitious Mars mission yet flown by NASA. The rover landed on Mars in 2012 with a primary mission to find out if Mars is, or was, suitable for life. Another objective is to learn more about the Red Planet's environment.
In March 2018, it celebrated 2,000 sols (Mars days) on the planet, making its way from Gale Crater to Aeolis Mons (colloquially called Mount Sharp), where it has looked at geological information embedded in the mountain's layers. Along the way, it also has found extensive evidence of past water and geological change.
July - Test - Pilot - Bob - White
On July 17, 1962, the American test pilot Bob White broke the world record for the highest altitude flight. He took off from Edwards Air Force Base in a rocket-powered X-15 aircraft and made it to an altitude of 314,750 feet. That's almost 60 miles! At the time, the Air Force considered the edge of space to be 50 miles above the Earth. So White received astronaut wings for his record-breaking spaceflight.
One thing that makes Curiosity stand out is its sheer size: Curiosity is about the size of a small SUV. It is 9 feet 10 inches long by 9 feet 1 inch wide (3 m by 2.8 m) and about 7 feet high (2.1 m). It weighs 2,000 lbs. (900 kilograms). Curiosity's wheels have a 20-inch (50.8 cm) diameter.
Engineers - NASA - Jet - Propulsion - Laboratory
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory designed the rover to roll over obstacles up to 25 inches (65 centimeters) high and to travel about 660 feet (200 m) per day. The rover's power comes from a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, which produces electricity from the heat of plutonium-238's radioactive decay.
According to NASA, Curiosity has four main science goals in support of the agency's Mars exploration program:
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