DOE Science Showcase - "Curiosity" R&D
U.S. Department of Energy laboratories and their researchers are helping keep the Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” rover functioning on Mars for the next 23 months. Search the DOE’s Energy Citations Database and other DOE Collections to learn more about some of the research that makes this mission possible. Learn more about ChemCam, the MMRTG, Signs of Life, and Beyond Curiosity in the white paper Department of Energy R&D for the Mars Science Laboratory, by Dr. William Watson, Physicist, OSTI staff.
- DOE’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) constructed at the Idaho, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, provides Curiosity continuous power and effective operating temperatures for its 11 scientific instruments. Find out more about the RTG - - History, the Curiosity, and New Horizons in DOE R&D Accomplishments.
- The DOE nuclear space power systems have been used for space missions since 1961, including on the Apollo and Viking missions; the Galileo and Cassini spacecraft; and the Voyager probes. Find out what DOE and 13 other agencies are doing with nuclear space power systems in Science.gov.
- Curiosity’s new ChemCam was developed by LANL’s Roger Wiens with a team of 45 people and the collaboration of the French space institute IRAP. ChemCam uses laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy to measure the chemical content of the target samples. View the ScienceCinema research video A LANL Scientist’s Dream Takes Off to Zap Rocks on Mars.
- CheMin (for CHEmistry and MINeralogy) is a LANL technology that uses X-ray diffraction to determine the composition of mineral samples collected and dropped into a funnel on the Curiosity rover. CheMin identifies and quantifies all minerals in complex samples such as basalts, evaporites and soils, one of the principle objectives of Mars Science Laboratory. Read related technical reports authored by LANL geologist Steve Chipera and David Vaniman in the Energy Citations Database.
- Sandia Laboratory engineers worked behind the scenes to monitor the nuclear safety of Mars Science Laboratory launches. Every space shuttle mission since 2005 used Sandia’s laser dynamic range imager orbiter inspection system, which generates 3-D images from two-dimensional video to scan the orbiter’s thermal protection system.