Electrical Power


    MSL Power Source

    The rover requires power to operate. Without power, it cannot move, use its science instruments, or communicate with Earth. Curiosity carries a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay. This power source gives the mission an operating lifespan on Mars' surface of at least a full Martian year (687 Earth days) or more while also providing significantly greater mobility and operational flexibility, enhanced science payload capability, and exploration of a much larger range of latitudes and altitudes than was possible on previous missions to Mars.

    Main Job Provide power to the rover
    Location Aft side of the rover
    Power Source Uses 10.6 pounds (4.8 kilograms) of plutonium dioxide as the source of the steady supply of heat
    Electrical Power Produced Slightly over 100 watts
    Batteries 2 lithium ion rechargeable batteries to meet peak demands of rover activites when the demand temporarily exceeds the generator's steady electrical output levels
    Reliability NASA has used this power source reliably for decades, including the Apollo missions to the moon, the Viking missions to Mars, and the Pioneer, Voyager, Ulysses, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons missions.
    Safety Built with several layers of protective material to contain its fuel in a wide range of potential launch accidents, verified through impact testing. Manufactured in a ceramic form, is not a significant health hazard unless broken into very fine pieces or vaporized and then inhaled or swallowed. In the unlikely event of a launch accident, those who might be exposed would receive an average does of 5 to 10 millirem. The average American receives 360 millirem of radiation each year from natural sources, such as radon and cosmic rays.
    The MMRTG is provided to NASA by the U.S. Department of Energy