Curiosity and the Mars Science Laboratory Mission

Launch: November 26, 2011
Landed: August 6, 2012 at 1:32 a.m. Eastern (August 5, 2012 10:32 p.m. PDT)

Mission Status: Active

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has taken a bold new step in the exploration of Planet Mars with a new rover called Curiosity (centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission). Curiosity seeks to determine if the Red Planet ever had conditions to support life. Launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, Curiosity carries a Canadian-made geology instrument that will enable the rover to determine the chemical composition of the rocks and soil on Mars.

The mobile lab is equipped with ten different instruments, each with specialized capabilities to investigate different aspects of the rocks and soils or the current environment of the planet. Compiling the data from all the instruments will help scientists establish if Mars was once a more hospitable place for life.

Although recent missions led by Curiosity's predecessors have provided valuable data on the geological composition of our planetary neighbour, Curiosity is delving into Mars' environmental history in much greater detail than previous missions. This laboratory on wheels is a motorized field geologist and geochemist, probing and analysing the Martian surface using, among other things, its Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) provided by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The spectrometer, specially adapted and tuned for the mission, is analysing samples to help ascertain the potential habitability of Mars.