The Next Mars Rover Is Nuclear-Powered

The rover for the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory mission is a plutonium-powered cyclops with a rock-vaporizing laser!

If you've seen the next Mar's rover, named Curiosity (part of the Mars Science Laboratory-- or MSL as it's called for short), you've probably noticed that it's does not have solar panels, and that's because it does not need them. NASA has opted for a more reliable miniature nuclear reactor to serve as Curiosity's main power source.

It almost sounds like something out of Isaac Asimov's Foundation where nuclear energy power everything from ships to handguns, but it's true.

A few days before the rover's scheduled launch on November 25, NASA scientists will install the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. The generator is equipped with thermocouples that convert the heat generated from the natural decay of the plutonium dioxide into electricity. The power supply can provide Curiosity with a constant 110 watts of electricity that will allow the rover to travel farther than previous rovers and use more powerful analytical tools, all while continuously recharging its batteries.

NASA decided to use this alternative power source in place of solar panels because the Curiosity rover is like a compact car in comparison to its RC-car predecessors, Opportunity and Spirit. Curiosity weighs in at 2,000 pounds and measures 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall, which makes it twice as heavy and five times larger than the last two rovers.

The scientists also hope that the internal power system will also be more reliable in the dusty Martian environment than the solar panels on earlier rovers that were rendered useless in the planet's winter.

The craziest thing about these radioisotope power sources is that they have been in use since the Apollo moon missions.

NASA via Coudal and Gizmodo

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags popular scienceNASATech industry

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Kevin Lee

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?