What are Science Instruments?

Science instruments are state-of-the-art tools for acquiring information about the geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions, and potential biosignatures on Mars.


Mastcam Instrument

Mastcam (Mast Camera) ›

Mike Malin, Principal Investigator
Malin Space Systems, San Diego, CA, USA

The Mast Camera, or Mastcam for short, takes color images and color video footage of the Martian terrain. The images can be stitched together to create panoramas of the landscape around the rover.

MAHLI Instrument

MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager) ›

Kenneth Edgett, Principal Investigator
Malin Space Systems, San Diego, CA, USA

The Mars Hand Lens Imager, called MAHLI, is the rover's version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field. MAHLI's close-up images reveal the minerals and textures in rock surfaces.

MARDI Instrument

MARDI (Mars Descent Imager) ›

Mike Malin, Principal Investigator
Malin Space Systems, San Diego, CA, USA

The Mars Descent Imager, nicknamed "MARDI," shot a color video of the terrain below as the rover descended to its landing site. The video helped mission planners select the best path for Curiosity when the rover started exploring Gale Crater.


APXS Instrument

APXS (Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer) ›

Ralf Gellert, Principal Investigator
University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer is called APXS for short. When it is placed right next to a rock or soil surface, it uses two kinds of radiation to measure the amounts and types of chemical elements that are present.

ChemCam Instrument

ChemCam (Chemistry and Camera) ›

Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, USA

The Chemistry and Camera tool is known as ChemCam. ChemCam's laser, camera and spectrograph work together to identify the chemical and mineral composition of rocks and soils.

CheMin Instrument

CheMin (Chemical and Mineralogy) ›

David Blake, Principal Investigator
NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA

The Chemical and Mineralogy instrument, or CheMin for short, performs chemical analysis of powdered rock samples to identify the types and amounts of different minerals that are present.

SAM Instrument

SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) ›

Paul Mahaffy, Principal Investigator
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA

The Sample Analysis at Mars tool is called SAM. SAM is made up of three different instruments that search for and measure organic chemicals and light elements that are important ingredients potentially associated with life.

Radiation Detectors

RAD Instrument

RAD (Radiation Assessment Detector) ›

Donald Hassler, Principal Investigator
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA

The Radiation Assessment Detector is also known as RAD, and is helping prepare for future human exploration of Mars. RAD measures the type and amount of harmful radiation that reaches the Martian surface from the sun and space sources.

DAN Instrument

DAN (Dynamic Albedo Of Neutrons) ›

Igor Mitrofanov, Principal Investigator
Space Research Institute, Moscow, Russia

The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons tool, called DAN for short, looks for telltale changes in the way neutrons released from Martian soil that indicate liquid or frozen water exists underground.

Environmental Sensors

REMS Instrument

REMS (Rover Environmental Monitoring Station) ›

Javier Gomez-Elvira, Principal Investigator
Center for Astrobiology, Madrid, Spain

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station is nicknamed REMS, and it contains all the weather instruments needed to provide daily and seasonal reports on meteorological conditions around the rover.

Atmospheric Sensors

MEDLI Instrument

MEDLI (Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument) ›

Alan Little, Principal Investigator
NASA Langley Research Center

The Mars Science Laboratory Energy Descent and Landing Instrument is called MEDLI. MEDLI measured the heating and atmospheric pressure changes that occurred during the descent to help determine the effects on different parts of the spacecraft.