Fast Facts

Canada and Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)

About The Mission
Objective Assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life.
Launched November 26, 2011 at 10:02 a.m. EST from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on an Atlas V 541 rocket.
Lands Scheduled for August 6 at 1:31 a.m. Eastern (August 5, 10:31 p.m. PDT).
Destination Gale crater near Mars's equator. Named after Australian astronomer Walter Frederick Gale, the crater spans 154 km in diameter and has a mountain rising about 5 km from its floor.
MSL traveled About 570 million kilometres in total on its way to Mars.
Distance between Earth and Mars in August 2012 248 million kilometers
Communications delay between Earth and Mars in August 2012 13.8 minutes
Length of mission One Mars year (23 Earth months)
Expected atmospheric temperatures at the landing site Minus 90 C to 0 C
Curiosity, MSL's Rover
Size About the size of a small car: about 3 metres long (not including the arm), 2.8 metres wide and 2.1 metres tall (roughly the height of a basketball player at the top of the mast).
Arm Reach Just over 2 metres
Weight 900 kg
Carries A robotic arm and 10 science instruments, including an on-board geology lab, a rock-zapping laser and 17 cameras.
Power A radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay. This nuclear battery provides a large energy supply with a long lifespan that is independent of Martian seasons.
Canada and MSL
The Canadian Space Agency's contribution The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)
Consists of 3 parts The APXS sensor head (which includes a NASA-provided contact sensor), an electronics box and a calibration target.
Goal Identify the chemical elements in rocks and soil, as well as their abundance.
Location on the rover APXS sits on the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. The electronics box is inside the rover's body and the calibration target is mounted on the rover's "shoulder."
Size The sensor is roughly 6x6x7 cm—about the size and shape of a Rubik's cube.
Principle Investigator Dr. Ralf Gellert, University of Guelph, who also leads the APXS science team
Science team members are from University of Guelph, University of New Brunswick, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (a division of Caltech), University of California, San Diego, Cornell University, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the and the Australian National University. With funding from the CSA, scientists from Brock University, the University of Western Ontario and the CSA are also participating in the mission as NASA-selected Participating Scientists.
Prime Contractor MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA)
The Canadian Space Agency's investment About $17.8 million (CAN) for the design, building, science support and primary operations of APXS.