NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, drives up a ramp during a test at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., on Sept. 10, 2010. The rover, like its smaller predecessors already on Mars, uses a rocker bogie suspension system to drive over uneven ground. Technicians and engineers in clean room garb watch the test drive carefully inside JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
The wheels on Curiosity are half a meter (20 inches) in diameter, twice the height of the wheels on earlier Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project will launch Curiosity in late 2011 for arrival at Mars in August 2012. The mission will study whether an intriguing area of Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving evidence of whether life existed there.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.