A great space instrument must balance many different factors. It must be as lightweight as possible to minimize both the fuel required for launch and the power requirements of the motors which will move it on Mars. It must consume as little power as possible, leaving the maximum energy for driving, motor actuation, and other science instruments. It should produce data quickly, leaving as much time for other activities as possible. It should be able to survive the deep cold of the Martian night and function correctly in the harsh Martian environment. And it must do all this after surviving the stresses of launch on a 531,000 kg rocket, an eight month journey through space at 20,000 km/h and a rocket-powered landing on Mars.
Take a deeper dive and explore the physics principles and engineering design of the APXS to find out how it manages to meet all these conflicting requirements and transmit back data that help shape our understanding of Mars!
Driving a 900 kg car loaded with sophisticated scientific instrumentation and a nuclear battery by remote control from 200,000,000 km away is no mean feat! Each movement has to be precise and deliberate, balancing getting the maximum scientific results with the safety of the vehicle. The spacecraft is so complex that it requires a team of dozens of highly trained personnel located at institutions around the world working together each day to assess the data and state of the vehicle while planning the rover’s next moves.
Learn more about how the Canadian APXS and international operations teams join forces to drive Curiosity to new heights and return exciting new data from Mars every day!