Now that the spacecraft Curiosity is safe on Martian soil, the largest and most advanced machine NASA ever sent to another planet needs power to get its 2,000-pound frame moving.
That power will be supplied by an advanced nuclear generator, called the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, developed by Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne engineers in Canoga Park.
The generator is crucial to the $2.5-billion Mars mission, which centered around Curiosity trekking through Gale Crater toward a central mountain. The rover also needs power for its many instruments aimed at finding out whether Mars is — or ever has been — hospitable to life. Its main mission is slated to last 23 months, or one Martian year.
NASA officials said Monday that Curiosity will not begin its journey for at least a week.
Larry Trager, general manager at Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne, said the generator could power the rover for years.
"The power source is capable for 14 years even though the mission isn't set to go that long," he said. "It's very robust."