Then, toward the end of the year, Curiosity is expected to begin its trek to Mount Sharp, a three mile-high mountain in the middle of Gale Crater, where the rover landed. The mountain is a key area of interest for NASA scientists who are trying to determine if Mars was ever capable of supporting any type of life.
The car-size, nuclear-powered rover is on what NASA hopes will be at least a two-year mission. It is equipped with 10 scientific instruments and offers the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on the surface of Mars, including chemistry instruments, environmental sensors and radiation monitors.
Late on Monday afternoon, NASA announced that it will launch a new mission, named InSight, in 2016 to try to discover whether the core of Mars is solid or liquid like Earth's, and why Mars' crust is not divided into tectonic plates that drift like they do on Earth.
That mission will involve a lander working near the Martian equator. The lander will carry two cameras, a robotic arm, a thermal probe to gauge the planet's temperature and a sensor to determine how much the planet wobbles on its axis. It will also carry an instrument to measure seismic waves traveling through the planet's interior.
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