Nuclear generator powers Curiosity Mars mission Technology Review

When the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars yesterday, a specially designed nuclear generator kicked into action.
Previous Mars missions have relied on solar panels to power the rovers, but exploration was slowed down by dust build-up on the solar panels or short winters days with little sunlight. The Curiosity Rover, which is as big as a large car, is also significantly larger and ten times heavier than previous Martian rovers.
Enter the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTP, an energy source that relies on the heat generated by decaying plutonium dioxide to run Curiosity. It’s designed to run at least one Martian year, which is almost two Earth years.