In contrast to the primary batteries (lithium thionyl chloride) on the Sojourner Mars Rover and the upcoming 2001 Mars Rover, the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Athena Rover will utilize rechargeable lithium ion batteries, following the footsteps of MSP 2001 Lander. The MSR Athena Rover will contain a rechargeable lithium ion battery of 16 V and a total energy of 150 Wh. The mass and volume of the projected power system will be a maximum of 3 kg and 2 liters, respectively. Each battery consists of twelve cells (6-7 Ah), combined in three parallel strings of four cells (16 V) each, such that the capability of the Rover shall be maintained even in the event of one string failure. In addition to usual requirements of high specific energy and energy density and long cycle life (100 cycles), the battery is required to operate at wide range of temperatures, especially at sub-zero temperatures down to -20°C. In this paper, we report various performance characterization tests carried out on lithium ion cells, fabricated by different manufacturers under NASA/DoD lithium ion battery consortium.