At the current stage of development, the rover is meeting, for the first time, conditions similar to the ones it will find on Mars. The tests are being conducted in a space-simulation chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
For the past week, the Rover has been trapped in the 25 foot diameter chamber (7.6 meters), vacuumed clean of any air and cooled down, with the help of liquid nitrogen in the walls, to a temperature of 130 degrees Celsius (minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit). The whole room is at the same time lit by powerful lamps that emulate the power of the sun on Mars. Curiosity, as the new rover is called, has several of its systems tested at the same time elsewhere.
The mission to Mars, set to launch in the period between November 25 to December 18, 2011, will be aimed at studying whether a selected area of Mars had the right conditions to give birth to microbial life and, if lucky, even find some evidence of life there.
The Rover will be equipped with a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) tool, which will allow it to shoot
laser beams at rocks and identify the chemical elements in the target.