National Aeronautics and Space Administration Planetary Protection Office

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Solar System Missions

Mars Science Laboratory

Illustration of the MSL rover operating on the surface of Mars.
Illustration of the MSL rover operating on the surface of Mars
NASA/JPL

NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) on November 26, 2011, and MSL is planned to descend onto the Mars surface on August 5, 2012. MSL will be long-range, long-duration roving science laboratory that will provide a major increase in surface science measurements from previous missions. The MSL rover will include a suite of instruments designed to seek answers to questions of geochemistry and biological habitability, and measure aspects of surface and sub-surface materials potentially linked with ancient life and climate. MSL could also pave the way for a future sample return mission. The MSL mission has been classified as Category IVa for planetary protection purposes, and steps were taken to ensure that the spacecraft does not contaminate Mars.

For more information on Mars Science Laboratory, visit the Mission Project Home Page at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website, and this page at the Science Mission Directorate website.