Comparing Curiosity with Spirit
Well, there is at least one other, rather notable difference: Curiosity will be nuclear-powered. The rover will draw its electricity from the heat generated by the radioactive decay of plutonium. NASA says that the radioisotope system will give Curiosity more ample and more consistent power than was the case for the solar-powered Spirit and Opportunity. The expected operational life span for Curiosity will be at least a full Martian year, or 687 Earth days.
This isn't the first time NASA will have packed plutonium in a spacecraft. That was the power source for the Viking landers, which visited Mars three decades ago, as well as for missions including Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, Ulysses, and New Horizons--in short, every spacecraft ever launched beyond Mars.
May 21, 2010 12:16 PM PDT
Photo by: NASA
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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