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Russian Fuel in NASA's Mars 'Curiosity' Mission


This artist concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. (Photo: NASA)

For the Geo Quiz, we are asking a Curiosity question.

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Over the weekend, NASA's Curiosity rover zapped its first Martian rock with a laser. NASA says it was target practice designed to hone the rover's instruments.

Curiosity, which landed on Mars earlier this month, is on a two-year mission to determine whether the Red Planet might ever have supported life.

No solar panels to keep the rover warm and humming during that time, though.

Instead, Curiosity is powered by plutonium-238, a man-made nuclear fuel and only two places in the world have made a lot of it. One is the Savannah River Nuclear Plant on the South Carolina-Georgia border.

And we are looking for the name of the other.

It is a former Soviet nuclear complex in the Ural Mountains, built in secrecy during the 1940s. And in the 1950s it was the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

Mayak Industrial Complex in Russia is the answer to the Geo Quiz. It is the place where nuclear fuel for NASA's latest Mars rover comes from.

Anchor Marco Werman talks to Geoff Brumfiel, a senior reporter for Nature magazine, who published an article at on Monday.