The Incredible Tools Of The Mars Curiosity Rover

Written by on June 22, 2013 in Technology - No comments | Print this page


The Mars Curiosity Rover is a marvel of modern technology. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Base in Florida, it landed successfully in the “Gale Crater” on Mars on 6 August 2012.

Thanks to the guiding systems installed by scientists at NASA, the rover landed only 2.4 kilometres from the centre of its touchdown target, after travelling roughly 563,000,000 kilometres. The incredible robot has an array of tools at its disposal for investigating the Martian climate and geology.

Robotic Arm

The Rover is equipped with a 2.1 metre arm with a cross-shaped end, capable of holding up to five devices and turning them at 350-degree angles. It makes use of its three joints to extend and reach difficult positions.

They can also fold and be stowed away to avoid damage when the vehicle is moving, or when severe weather picks up.

Mast Camera

The Mars Curiosity Rover

A series of cameras at the end of the Rover’s extendable arm can take auto-focus, true-colour images at a resolution of up to 1600×1200 pixels, and can record video at 720 pixels, at 10 frames per second.

Each camera has a storage capacity of 8 gigabytes in flash memory and can store up to 5,500 images.


The Rover’s two pairs of navigation cameras support its ground movement. They provide a 45-degree field of view, using visible light to capture stereoscopic 3-D imagery that informs the Rover where to move and how to navigate terrain.


The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, or REMS, measures Martian humidity, atmospheric pressure, temperature, UV radiation and wind speeds. It’s designed to help us learn more about Martian weather systems, the potentially destructive effects of UV radiation and subsurface habitability.


The ChemCam, or Chemistry and Camera complex, is a combination of two instruments – a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI).

The LIBS is used to analyse the elemental composition of Martian rock and soil, and the RMI provides high-resolution images of sample areas of rock and soil that the LIBS targets.


The Chemistry and Mineralogy tool, or CheMin, is used to identify and quantify various minerals on the Martian surface. It drills samples from rocks and x-rays the fine powdery residue to analyse its crystal structure, allowing researchers to identify the minerals.


The Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, is located on the Rover’s robotic arm. It takes microscopic images of rock and soil. It can take 1600 x 1200 images with vision as high as 14.5 micrometres per pixel.

Dust Removal Tool

The Dust Removal Tool, or DRT, is simply a motorized wire brush mounted on a turret at the end of the Curiosity Rover’s arm. This tool was first used on 6 January 2013 on a target rock dubbed “Ekwir 1”.


The Rover is equipped with four pairs of cameras that it uses as guidance for avoiding hazardous terrain. Only four of the cameras are used at a time. They provide information to the Rover about its surroundings, in a 3-metre radius around it.

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This article was contributed by Jeff who writes for South African tool maker HVDH and loves to blog on cutting edge engineering and tooling. You can follow him on twitter if you’d like to see more of his work.


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