NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is on the verge of passing a rigorous month-long health checkup with flying colors, scientists announced today (Sept. 12).
Since Curiosity landed inside Mars’ Gale Crater on Aug. 5, researchers have been systematically checking out the rover’s systems and its 10 science instruments to make sure they’re all in good working condition. Those inspections have gone very well and should be finished by the end of Curiosity’s next Martian day, or sol, mission team members said today.
“The success so far of these activities has been outstanding,” said Curiosity mission manager Jennifer Trosper, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Throughout every phase of the checkouts, Curiosity has performed almost flawlessly.”
This is what happens to naughty Mars rocks. *pew pew pew*
The rover’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, blasted a flat, fist-sized rock with a high-powered laser 30 times in 10 seconds, creating plasma sparks that were analyzed by three light-splitting spectrometers to determine their chemical contents.
MSL Curiosity is starting to look around and will calibrate her camera using the pixelated sticker mounted on her frame (in photo #3)
She may have seen her own shadow, but as Mars is near the end of summer at the moment, so it won’t be having six more weeks of winter. #joke
I love getting up in the morning and checking the Mars Science Laboratory’s website for new raw images.
I got really excited when I saw that bottom picture in the set, I can’t wait to see pictures taken with the MastCam!
After 8 1/2 months crossing the millions of miles between planets, the biggest and most complex rover ever sent to another world is now on its final approach for a hair-raising touchdown on Mars.
NASA’s 1-ton Curiosity rover is set to land inside the Red Planet’s Gale Crater at 10:31 p.m. PDT tonight (Aug. 5; 1:31 a.m. EDT and 0531 GMT on Aug. 6). As with any planetary landing, success is not a given, and tensions may be especially high tonight given Curiosity’s elaborate, unprecedented landing sequence.
The rover’s spacecraft will barrel into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph (21,000 kph), then deploy a huge supersonic parachute to slow it to about 200 mph (320 kph). Rockets will slow the vehicle’s descent further, to less than 2 mph (3.2 kph), setting the stage for a spectacular “sky crane” maneuver.
Curiosity’s descent stage will lower the enormous rover to the Martian surface on cables, then fly off to crash-land intentionally a safe distance away. Engineers have dubbed the entire sequence “seven minutes of terror” (watch), because that’s how long it’ll take from atmospheric entry to touchdown.
A Self-Portrait of Opportunity
I want you to stop and think about something. This is a picture of another planet. Where this robot is. Right now.
As we sit here on Earth in this or any moment, we each have in our heads a flurry of worries and questions and ideas. And most of them pertain to our own lives. That’s okay, it’s human nature. We are each the center of our own universe.
I often think about this in crowded places, like while in traffic, as the place I’m going is far more important than the place all of these other people are going. I’m convinced that they feel the same way. And so we sit.
But that means that there are seven billion mental universes walking around on this planet. We are staring into them through little digital windows that we carry in our hands, and certain that this decision is the most important decision. Everything that is happening is happening to us.
Yet for the past eight years, there has been a dusty, six-wheeled rover crawling around the surface of Mars, completely alone. Incidentally, that rover has exceeded its expected mission of 90 days by thirty-two times over. That’s admirable, and I can’t help but personify the little guy. Like a sort of scrappy, diligent explorer, quietly working hard for the benefit of someone else. “No complaints, boss!” Like Johnny 5 meets Wall-E.
And so we get images like this, reminding us that every day we can look beyond our personal universe. What a thought! Look at how much is out there. Think of what else we could see! Let’s go.