NASA’s Curiosity rover will be landing on the surface of Mars in August 2012 to find out whether Mars ever was, or still is, a hospitable environment for life. The mission, called Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), aims to assess the planet’s habitability.
Two systems developed and built by Atrium España (a subsidiary of EADS) will be travelling on board the Curiosity: the REMS weather station and a communications antenna, built jointly with the firm SENER. These two products were constructed under bilateral cooperation agreements between NASA, the CDTI (Centre for Industrial Technology Development) and INTA (National Aerospace Technology Institute).
The antenna can be swivelled to point directly towards earth, thus saving energy by avoiding the need for the vehicle to turn. This allows the rover to communicate all the data from its instruments and receive the instructions it needs to complete its mission without the need for intermediate links with the orbiters circling the red planet.
This program was launched in 2006 as an expansion of Spain’s collaboration on the REMS instrument, led by the Astrobiology Centre (CAB, INTA-CSIC), and was supported and advised by the previous director of the CAB, Juan Pérez Mercader.