NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Powered by Wind River

Could Mars Have Ever Hosted Life? Robot Explorer Seeks Answer

On August 6, 2012, NASA made an enormous advancement in space exploration when it landed the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity in the Gale Crater on Mars. Curiosity is the most technologically advanced autonomous robotic spacecraft and geologist set ever to be deployed by any space venture. It’s on a groundbreaking mission to determine whether Mars is or has ever been capable of supporting life and to assess its habitability for future human missions.

VxWorks® real-time operating system (RTOS) plays a central role in this historic mission. VxWorks provides the core operating system of the spacecraft control system—from the second the rocket left Earth on November 26, 2011, until the end of the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, has used VxWorks as the mission-critical OS brain for more than two decades. The total cost of the Curiosity project is approximately $2.5 billion and represents eight years of passion and work, so the stakes are high, and a fail-proof, resilient RTOS was a core requirement.

Curiosity is much larger than other rovers—approximately the size of a Mini Cooper automobile. It carries 10 times more scientific instruments than the previous Mars Exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Curiosity is more durable and explores a larger area than previous rovers. It’s expected to cover 12 miles or more during its planned two-year mission.

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