MSL Instruments

    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
      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 (Mars Hand Lens Imager) ›
      R. Aileen Yingst, Principal Investigator
      Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ, 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 (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 (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 (Chemistry and Camera) ›
      Nina Lanza, 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 (Chemical and Mineralogy) ›
      Thomas Bristow, 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 (Sample Analysis at Mars) ›
      Charles Malespin, 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 (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 (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 (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 (Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument) ›
      Alan Little, Principal Investigator
      NASA Langley Research Center

      The Mars Science Laboratory Entry 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.