Riding with Curiosity: A Cheat Sheet

Over the hills and far away: the rim of Gale Crater soon after landing. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

After a spectacular launch and a long cruise through the black reaches of space, the Mars Science Laboratory—better known as the Curiosity rover—amazed the world with its daring landing in Gale Crater.

Curiosity is the biggest rover ever sent to Mars, and carries the most advanced suite of instruments, in order to discover the story of the planet’s habitability.

Use this page as a quick guide to the rover’s daily adventures:
Quick Update   |   Mission Basics   |   Ride Along


Quick Updates: Recent Pictures & News


Like a scene from a sci-fi movie, only real: Curiosity’s heat shield falls away during the landing. This is just one frame in the high-res movie that was filmed as the rover was lowered to the surface.

gale crater horizon
After a few months of local work, Curiosity will head for these hills, where Mars explorers believe there is a story to uncover about a warmer, wetter Red Planet in the past. More pictures >


All of the rover’s science instruments have been checked out, and some are already taking measurements. Now that the first test drives have been completed, Curiosity will head off to spend its first few months of serious work at a place dubbed “Glenelg” before beginning the long trek to Mt. Sharp. More news >


August 17 Mission Update | 7 Minutes of Terror | “7 Minutes of Triumph” | Mars in a Minute | Curiosity’s location | President’s Call | More videos


Mission Basics


Gale Crater, a 154 km-wide impact crater near the Martian equator. Specifically, the Aeolis Palus plain and Aeolis Mons, the crater’s 5.5 km-high central mountain, also informally called Mt. Sharp.

Google Mars map | Gale Crater info | Gale Crater images | How the site was chosen


Launch: November 26, 2011
Landing: August 5, 2012 at 10:17 PM PDT (6 Aug 05:17 UTC, about 3 p.m. local Mars time)
Primary mission duration: one Martian year (98 weeks or almost two Earth years)

The Rover:

Rover dimensions: 9 feet, 10 inches (3.0 meters) long; 9 feet, 1 inch (2.8 meters) wide; 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall with mast
Mass: 1,982 pounds (899 kilograms)
Power: Multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator and lithium-ion batteries
Science payload: 165 pounds (75 kilograms) in 10 instruments: Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), Mast Camera, Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)

Credit: NASA/JPL

The rover and its scale, a composite of two NASA diagrams. See also this rover infographic from Space.com.

Tracking Mars and the Rover:

Current distance from Earth to Mars: 251 million kilometers (156 million miles), 14 minutes light travel time

See where Mars is right now | See a replay of the landing simulation (via Eyes on the Solar System)

More Mission Info:

More Mars Resources:


Ways to Ride Along

Official sites:

Official Mars Curiosity and other NASA social media:

Curiosity News

Other Social Media

  • Twitter feeds for several Curiosity engineers and scientists: @icancallubetty @steltzner @SteveWSell @RaySBaker @LeeCuriosity @bellutta @Matt_Heverly

Mobile Apps

RSS Feeds

Other Good Info Sources


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