Monday, November 21, 2011

After Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity is ready to Go!

Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity is powered with radioisotope thermal generators, and is thus not limited by the availability of solar power. However, it will still need to reduce activity during the coldest winter months, when more of its power will be required to keep its instruments warm. It also carries a more sophisticated analytical instrument package than Spirit and Opportunity. Curiosity will assess past habitability by searching for and identifying organic compounds, possible metabolic products of ancient organisms, and studying the rocks for details about the past climate in which they formed. Curiosity carries ten science instruments. What makes the science instrument suite of Curiosity unique are the analytical tools located within the body of the rover, which will perform detailed chemical analyses of about 70 samples of rock and soil delivered to them by the robotic arm. Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) includes a gas chromatograph, mass spectrometer, and tunable laser spectrometer, and is intended to identify organic compounds and also to measure the isotopic ratios of chemical elements important to life. CheMin is an X-ray diffraction X-ray fluorescence instrument, which directly measures the bulk elemental composition of rocks and soils, allowing scientists to infer mineral composition. read more (