Curiosity carries 10 science instruments. Some are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking the chemical make-up of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover. To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity.
NASA has just released a spectacular new image of Curiosity descending to Mars. Taken by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the snapshot shows the parachute fully inflated about one minute before touchdown: