March 21, 2011
Curiosity Gets Test Taste Of Mars Conditions
A space-simulation chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is temporary home this month for the Curiosity rover, which will land on Mars next year.
Tests inside the 25-foot-diameter chamber (7.6-meters) are putting the rover through various sequences in environmental conditions resembling Martian surface conditions. After the chamber's large door was sealed last week, air was pumped out to near-vacuum pressure, liquid nitrogen in the walls dropped the temperature to minus 130 degrees Celsius (minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit), and a bank of powerful lamps simulated the intensity of sunshine on Mars.
The mission will use Curiosity to study one of the most intriguing places on Mars -- still to be selected from among four finalist landing-site candidates. It will study whether a selected area of Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and for preserving evidence about whether Martian life has existed.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Image Caption: This image shows preparation for one phase of testing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. The testing during March 2011 in a 25-foot-diameter (7.6-meter-diameter) space-simulation chamber was designed to put the rover through operational sequences in environmental conditions similar to what it will experience on the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
On the Net:
- For more information about the mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl