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