Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a robotic space probe mission to Mars launched by NASA on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. The overall objectives include investigating Mars’ habitability, studying its climate and geology, and collecting data for a manned mission to Mars. The rover carries a variety of scientific instruments designed by an international team.
MSL successfully carried out a more accurate landing than previous spacecraft to Mars, aiming for a small target landing ellipse of only 7 by 20 km (4.3 by 12 mi), in the Aeolis Palus region of Gale Crater. In the event, MSL achieved a landing only 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) from the center of the target. This location is near the mountain Aeolis Mons (a.k.a. “Mount Sharp”). The rover mission is set to explore for at least 687 Earth days (1 Martian year) over a range of 5 by 20 km (3.1 by 12 mi).
This 11-minute animation depicts key events of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, which launched in late 2011 and landed a rover, Curiosity, on Mars in August 2012.