In less than a month, NASA will take a bold new step in the exploration of Planet Mars with the launch of a new rover, Curiosity. Curiosity is the centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission and will seek to determine if the Red Planet has ever had conditions supportive of life. Scheduled to launch November 25, 2011, Curiosity will carry a Canadian-made science instrument that will enable the rover to determine the chemical composition of the rocks and soil on Mars.
Roughly the size of a soup can, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS)’s sensor will be able to gather data day and night. APXS, which sits on the end of the rover’s robotic arm, will move in close to a sample and bombard it with alpha particles and X-rays to study its composition, including trace elements. APXS is provided by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), with Dr. Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph as the Principal Investigator.
NASA will hold a briefing about the mission on Nov 10 at 1 p.m., on NASA TV.
For an animation and more information on the mission, please visit the Canada Space Agency mission page.