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Introduction to the Mars Science Laboratory

Introduction to the Mars Science Laboratory

Author: Nathan Lampson

Is there life on Mars? Meet the Curiosity Rover. The Rover's job is to analyze rocks and other objects on Mars to see if they contain the same molecules that are found in living organisms. Learn about the mission of the Mars Science Laboratory and how to develop questions or hypotheses about space exploration.

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Mars Science Laboratory and the Curiosity Rover


Answering Questions with Rovers

Launch November 26, 2011 - Landing August 5/6, 2012

​A new rover is being sent to Mars! Rovers are vehicles designed to move across the surface of other planets. 

The Curiosity rover aims to learn big things. Curiosity is outfitted with a jet pack for landing, a rock vaporizing laser and a radioactive power source.

Two other rovers have been sent to Mars.  In 1997, the Mars Pathfinder mission used the Sojourner rover to gather data about the surface of Mars. In 2004, a pair of rovers named Spirit & Opportunity searched for evidence of water on the surface of Mars.

This wheel comparison shows the size of the wheels associated with various Mars rovers. From the left, these are the wheels from the Sojourner, Spirit/Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers. The Curiosity Rover is much larger than rovers that have been sent to Mars in the past. It weighs more than all previous Mars rovers combined.

When scientists create tools to study outer space, they do it with a question in mind that they'd like to answer.

How hot is Venus?

How far away is the Sun?

What is the edge of our Solar System like?


Can you think of a question that you could answer using an outer space mission?

​Example Questions:

Sojourner - "What is the pressure, temperature, and wind like on Mars?"

Spirit & Opportunity - "Was there water on Mars or an environment suitable for life?"


​Example Hypotheses:

​"Seeds that have grown in space will grow the same as seeds that have not."

"Mars contains the building blocks of life and may have been suitable for living organisms in the past."