Mars rover Curiosity requires power to operate.
Without power, the rover cannot move, use its science instruments, or communicate with Earth.
Curiosity carries a radioisotope power system. This power source produces electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay.
This power source provides several advantages:
- It gives the mission an operating lifespan of a full Martian year (687 Earth days) or more.
- It gives the rover greater mobility over a large range of latitudes and altitudes.
- It allows scientists to maximize the capabilities of the rover’s science instruments.
- It provides engineers with a lot of flexibility in operating the rover (e.g., day and night).