When NASA's newest Mars rover, Curiosity, lands on the Red Planet in a little over a couple of weeks, it will start an ambitious mission that is expected to always be able to last approximately 2 Earth years. Nevertheless without shortage of intriguing mysteries for you to tackle, how long could the car-size rover truly final on Mars?

After nearly eight months of journeying by means of space, NASA's Curiosity rover, or Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), will attempt to land around the Red Planet about the night of Aug. 5. The Particular 1-ton rover sets its wheels down from Gale Crater, any 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer) scar on the Martian surface coming from an ancient asteroid impact.

As Curiosity explores Gale Crater and a mysterious mountain, called Mount Sharp, in its center, the rover will search for clues that the planet is, or at any time was, capable of harboring past or even current microbial life.

Curiosity will be the most complex robotic explorer which has ever been sent to Mars, NASA officials have got said. Your rover will be equipped using a suite associated with ten instruments that will allow scientists to examine your rocks, soil along with atmosphere involving Mars.

The $2.5 billion mission is predicted to be carried out more than 2 Earth years, however it is conceivable the Curiosity rover's lifestyle upon Mars might be extended if necessary, stated Pete Theisinger, MSL project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory inside Pasadena, Calif. [Photos: How Curiosity's Nail-Biting Landing Works]

Powered by simply plutonium

The Curiosity rover will be carrying any nuclear energy supply in order to charge its batteries along with gasoline its onboard techniques throughout its planned two-year mission about Mars. Your system makes use of heat in the decay regarding plutonium-238 for you to create 110 watts associated with electrical power to cost the rover's batteries.

For 50 years, NASA provides employed these sorts of nuclear systems, known as radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), to end up being able to power unmanned probes to study planets along along with other objects within the outer solar system.

In the situation of the Mars Science Laboratory, an RTG had been essential simply because solar panels on your own could not produce enough power to operate the particular large rover, NASA officials said.

Since RTG-powered rovers don't require sunlight in order to operate, these spacecraft are usually effective at exploring more diverse locations, without the maximum amount of concern about the season, period as well as latitude. Solar-powered rovers must land as well as run within the relatively narrow latitude band near the equator, exactly where sufficient sunlight could be accessed to be able to generate electricity, agency officials explained.

So really does that mean Curiosity should last longer on the Martian surface? Certainly Not necessarily, Theisinger said.



While the actual rover could realistically survive five or 6 a lengthy time upon Mars, you can find 3 primary areas that could limit Curiosity's life: your rover's onboard mechanisms, its batteries, as well as its nuclear-powered RTG, he explained.

"We test the actual mechanisms typically for three times existence sometimes a couple of as well as we do not test these to failure," Theisinger informed SPACE.com. "So, every one regarding the mechanisms are already tested to end up being able to last 2 in order to three gamble times more than we anticipate the particular mission to operate, when they haven't failed for the reason that period of time."

The rover's batteries along with RTG are usually built to run upon Mars with regard to a minimum of 687 Earth days, but could endure for longer. [Infographic: History involving Robotic Red Planet Missions]

"The RTG suffers in the degradation associated with plutonium dioxide, however in which lasts a new lengthy time," Theisinger said. "I think in the RTG, I would expect to get 10, 12 or perhaps many years out of it."

As such, Curiosity's greatest vulnerabilities tend to be most likely the parts that will manage its capacity to maneuver about around the planet's surface.

"The point you'll say in which usually we first run out with the warranty would be using the mechanisms manipulating the generating along with these kinds associated with things," Theisinger said. "There's a number of redundancy there, though. each with the wheels has its personal drive motor, consequently bet365 there's a motor inside the hub pertaining to each of your driving a car wheels, where there tend to be steering wheels around the 4 corners. If we shed any drive motor on the wheel, we are generally able to nonetheless drive along with five. So, there's a range of redundancy together with what we have."

In your footsteps regarding past rovers

Curiosity's predecessors, the actual twin Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit as well as Opportunity, surprised scientists simply by far outlasting their particular warranties around the Red Planet.

Spirit as well as opportunity carressed down on Mars three weeks apart in January 2004. Your solar-powered rovers had been created for three-month missions around the Martian surface, however the intrepid robot explorers lasted far more than was originally expected.

Spirit ended up being officially declared dead throughout Could 2011, after receiving trapped inside unforgiving Martian sand. Opportunity, in one other hand, carries on its trek about Mars, getting already logged 21.4 miles (34.4 km).

But, since Spirit and opportunity are usually solar-powered rovers, and also Curiosity can be powered with an RTG, it is challenging to compare the particular missions, Theisinger said.

"The reasons Spirit and also Chance lasted lengthier are generally different, therefore you can't hightail it with this idea," he said. "Do I consider Curiosity could last longer? It certainly could. Could it final 10 years? I don't consider so. However could it last five years? An Individual bet. In case it lasted five or 6 years, I would certainly not be shocked. Yet a person never know."

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow as well as SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're additi