While the Mars Curiosity rover is the most complex machine NASA has ever sent to another planet, the computer that runs it is no more powerful than the one in your smartphone.
The robotic rover, which landed in the Gale Crater on Mars early Monday morning, now is being put through a series of tests to make sure all of its systems are functioning properly after its more than 350-million-mile journey from Earth. It may be several weeks before the SUV-sized robotic rover is ready to begin its trek across the Martian surface.
Curiosity is on what scientists hope will be a two-year mission to find out if the planet has or ever has had what it takes to support life, even in a microbial form. The rover also will look for signs that humans could one day live on Mars.
While Curiosity is on a major scientific mission, the rover itself is something of an engineering marvel, too, according to the men and women who built it.
The Mars rover Curiosity has two computers, four chips and software designed to last throughout its two-year mission. (Artist concept: NASA)
The rover not only has to be sturdy enough to survive a more than eight-month journey through outer space to reach Mars, once there, it has to be able to work in brutal temperature extremes for years.