The Mars Science Laboratory - the ultimate planetary rover - will be a much larger and heavier rover than the MER rovers. It will have a wheelbase of 1.5 meters, an equipment deck height of 1.1 meters with a surface clearance of roughly 0.6 meters, and an overall height to the top of the ChemCam on the Mast Assembly of 2.1 meters. JPL estimates the weight of the MSL at 775 kilograms. It will employ a bigger and even more effective rocker-bogie suspension design, with forty-centimeter-diameter wheels capable of rolling over seventy-five-centimeter-high obstacles. Due to mission duration, potential landing site location and power requirements, JPL will employ the newest generation Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), which is a proven technology first employed on the successful Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers and on the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Packages (ALSEP) deployed on the Moon. The RTG is capable of providing power for the MSL for years. Drawing from lessons learned from the MER rover software experiences, the MSL flight software will employ Mission Data Systems (MDS)-based architecture and JPL's systems engineering methodology that will be much more stable, robust and readily upgradeable. The MSL's computer, CPU and memory will be the most advanced ever employed in order to handle all the rover's operations, scientific functions and communications. It will employ high-gain, low-gain and UHF antennas. The MSL will have a more sophisticated robotic arm that will be fully articulated to place samples within the sample analysis instruments. The MSL will undergo its first field tests during 2008.
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