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Mars Space NASA Science

NASA Spaceship Scouts Out Prime Mars Landing Spots 78

Posted by Zonk
from the you-know-they-limit-the-good-ones-to-give-out-tickets dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter this week sent back high-resolution images of about 30 proposed landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory, a mission launching in 2009 to deploy a long-distance rover carrying sophisticated science instruments on Mars. The orbiter's high-resolution camera has taken more than 3,500 huge, sharp images released in black-and-white since it began science operations in November 2006. The images show features as small as a desk. The orbiter has sent back some 26 terabytes of data, equivalent to about 5,000 CD-ROMs."
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NASA Spaceship Scouts Out Prime Mars Landing Spots

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  • by Change (101897) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:43PM (#20955995)
    How much is that in Libraries of Congress?
  • I wouldn't be getting up again
  • by Lookin4Trouble (1112649) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:44PM (#20956007)
    26TB == ~5,000 DVD (Single Layer, 4.7GB per) or ~36,000 CD-ROM (700MB per). Are those JPL guys trying to convert to/from metric _again_ or was that just Zonk being Zonk?
    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:48PM (#20956089)
      26TB == ~5,000 DVD (Single Layer, 4.7GB per) or ~36,000 CD-ROM (700MB per). Are those JPL guys trying to convert to/from metric _again_

      Maybe the conversion got screwed up because of the difference between metric Libraries of Congress and Imperial Libraries of Congress? Anyway, the line that impressed me was "The images show features as small as a desk." Who'd have thought, a desk on Mars.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by DaveWick79 (939388)
        Too bad the camera isn't good enough to pick up the Martian sitting at the desk.

        Really, if any of the landing spots have desks near them, I'd avoid them as much as possible.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You know, an Imperial Library of Congress has a bit of a ring to it...
      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        Anyway, the line that impressed me was "The images show features as small as a desk." Who'd have thought, a desk on Mars.

        Harumph. Let me know when they can see the memo on TPS cover sheets on the desk.

        Maybe the conversion got screwed up because of the difference between metric Libraries of Congress and Imperial Libraries of Congress

        How many VW beetles is that?

      • by belunar (413142)
        Camera zooms in, sees desk, zooms in further, sees person behind desk.."And now for something completely different..." just as a giant foot slams down on the desk and the person behind it.
    • by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:54PM (#20956221)
      another possibility is that they mixed up bits and bytes... if it were 26 terabits of data it would in fact be somewhat close to 5,000 CDs. (in fact it would be exactly 5,000 of the older CDs that held 650 MB on them).
      • by Schweg (730121)
        That would make more sense in terms of transmission rates too. 26 terabytes over a year works out to about 900 kilobytes per second, which sounds pretty high. 26 terabits would just be ~112 kilobytes per second.
  • nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wwmedia (950346) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:45PM (#20956027)
    good thing that there are still people at NASA that realize the great return for dollars spent that robotic missions bring,

    they may not be as glamorous as landing people on the moon etc
    but at the end of the day its this "boring / tedious" type of science that moves us forward, not the "giant leaps" (that average people get bored of rather quickly as seen in the 60s) just steady progress..
    • by GreggBz (777373)
      Advances to what end?

      What's the point of learning about the planets if we are never going to leave this one?

      Don't get me wrong, I see the benefits of unmanned missions, planetary science, meteorology, geology, physics and general technical advancement.. But I also see our steady progress in manned missions as necessary for any kind of permanent human presence in space. We can't stay on this rock forever. We just can't.
      • by wwmedia (950346)
        Advances to what end?

        to a point where its hopefully a whole lot cheaper to send stuff into space, and to a point where (like this article is about) we know exactly where to go and what to do



        i can see and agree with you point
        like everyone here i grew up with star trek which made space travel look easy, but the reality is space travel is expensive and dangerous

        i think people of our generation and our kids can forget about space travel
        unless people warm up to nuclear propulsion [nuclearspace.com] or find other way
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      good thing that there are still people at NASA that realize the great return for dollars spent that robotic missions bring

      Well, this sucker got into orbit in 2006, and seems to have been initiated [nasa.gov] around 2002.

      I'm sure the engineers realize the huge value they get from the robotic missions. Though, it's not entirely obvious that anyone in the administration of NASA still gets it. I certainly don't think we're anywhere near actually being able to focus on a manned mission.

      However, I couldn't agree more. Th

    • by Shadowlore (10860)
      So what "science" specifically have our robotic missions of the last decade done?

      And no, gathering data is not doing science.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:45PM (#20956029)
    From the article: The images show features as small as a desk
    If they are looking for life on Mars, they should land where the desk is.
    • by CptNerd (455084)
      I don't know, given my decades of experience with desks, you're more likely to find life forms under the desk.

      ... and sometimes inside the drawers, depending on how absent-minded the aliens are who work through lunch ...

    • If they're looking for Life on Mars, I'd have the spacecraft look for any David Bowie-shaped objects.
  • Impressive high resolution!
  • Bad Math (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Like2Byte (542992)
    (26 terabytes) / (4 gigabytes) = 6 656

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=26+terabytes+%2F+4+gigabytes+%3D&btnG=Search [google.com]

    Which equates to ~6600 DVDs, not CD-ROMs.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=26+terabytes+%2F+720+megabytes+%3D&btnG=Search [google.com]

    (26 terabytes) / (720 megabytes) = 37 865.2444

    That's 38000 CD-ROMs.
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:59PM (#20956339) Journal
      If they have been using P2P clients to download them, the RIAA/MPAA will be suing them shortly.

      The court case will be of special interest as the first attempt by a US entity to claim IP rights off world, and will be referred to for decades to come as precedent reference.

      In unusual clamor, SETI will engage the ACLU to defend NASA, and found the ETIPFLC (extra terrestrial IP Freedom Law Center) to later become the infamous Galactic Law Center. You will remember them, as this gigantic legal machine was the first recognition of the human race by other sentient beings in the universe.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mcbutterbuns (1005301)
      Give 'em a break, they were using Excel to do the math
    • by whopub (1100981)
      With math skills like these we'll be lucky if they land on the right planet.
  • by techpawn (969834) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:58PM (#20956321) Journal
    Why do we need Terabytes of information about landing sites about Mars but all it took was a telescope to pick a landing site on the moon? Maybe it's a distance thing and maybe there are just more difficulties with a Mars mission that I just don't understand or was there a few fly by missions to the moon I'm not remembering...
    • NASA sent a boatload of probes to the moon. There was both the Ranger and Surveyor missions. They not only photographed the lunar surface, but they also tested the soil composition to see if it was ok for people to walk on.

      In fact, on of the lunar missions, Apollo 12, actually touched down next to the Surveyor mission designed to scout for it. I think they actually retrieved some pieces from the Surveyor probe, to see how it held up after being so long on the lunar surface.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sighted (851500) *
      It didn't just take a telescope. There was all kinds of robotic reconnaissance, both Soviet and American, of the moon before the human landings. See this [nasa.gov] for example. As for Mars, there is no telescope, even the Hubble, that can come close to seeing the local details needed to pick the very best spots.
    • They might just want to take less risks and therefore use this more accurate procedure...

      Plus, unlike the moon, mars doesn't have a "dark side" that doesn't face us. Plus its significantly larger than the moon. We aren't just looking for "a landing place", but "the best landing place".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blueturffan (867705)
      There were more than just telescopes and fly-by missions to the moon.

      As I recall, the Ranger missions came first -- taking close-up photos before impacting the moon. I don't recall whether or not they orbited.

      The Surveyor missions came next. The Surveyor ships actually proved the feasibility of soft-landing on the moon. I believe it was Apollo 12 that landed close enough that the astronauts walked (hopped?) over and retrieved a portion of one of the Surveyors.

      Apollo 8 orbited the moon something

    • We used the early Apollo flights (as in some of the ones BEFORE Apollo 11) to take photographs of the Moon looking for landing sites. They had already picked out candidates, but the in-orbit photos were of much better resolution than from an Earth based telescope.
    • by Ironsides (739422)
      Distance to Moon: ~238,000 miles
      Distance to Mars: ~95,000,000 miles at closest approach


      Further, there were flybys and landings before hand.

      On July 19 Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and fired its service propulsion engine to enter lunar orbit. In the several orbits which followed, the crew saw passing views of their landing site in the southern Sea of Tranquility about 20 kilometers (12 mi) southwest of the crater Sabine D (0.67408N, 23.47297E). The landing site was selected in part because it had be
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:51PM (#20957239) Homepage

      Why do we need Terabytes of information about landing sites about Mars but all it took was a telescope to pick a landing site on the moon?

      A telescope doesn't have the resolution to study potential landing zones/site - even at lunar ranges. Additionally, they want to be careful with the landing areas for this probe due to it's size and weight.
       
       

      Maybe it's a distance thing and maybe there are just more difficulties with a Mars mission that I just don't understand or was there a few fly by missions to the moon I'm not remembering...

      The Lunar Orbiter [wikipedia.org] program put five photosats in orbit around the moon in 1966 and 67 for the purpose of studying the lunar surface with an emphasis on photographing potential landing sites. Even so, one of the main missions of the CSM pilot was conducting additional photographic studies from orbit while the rest of the crew was on the surface.
       
      There were actually three series of precursor missions to the moon in advance of the landings, the Ranger [wikipedia.org] series of hard landers, the Lunar Orbiter series of photosats, and the Surveyor [wikipedia.org] series of soft landers. None of them get a great deal of press nowadays, but without them the manned missions would have been much more difficult and much more dangerous.
      • The cool thing about Apollo 12 was they were able to set down within walking distance from Surveyor 3 and return parts of it back to Earth to study long term exposure effects on the Moon.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      Why do we need Terabytes of information about landing sites about Mars but all it took was a telescope to pick a landing site on the moon?

      If a robotic lander sent to the Moon craps out, it doesn't take too long to send up a new one. If the same happens with Mars, it'll take quite a bit longer to send up a new one.

      Also, gathering information about potential landing sites is just one of the many things the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is doing:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Reconnaissance_Orbiter#Mission_ob [wikipedia.org]
  • First faces and now furniture...maybe it's some kind of yard sale?
    • The face on Mars and the desk on Mars are close enough together to suggest a civilization sufficiently advanced to have discovered the "headdesk."
  • by sighted (851500) * on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:01PM (#20956393) Homepage
    All of the images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (whether measured in discs or libraries of congress) are online [arizona.edu]. Fantastic resource.
  • I love scientific discovery and exploration too, but I also respect the rule of Finance. Can we afford this? Seriously, we're spending like 1,000 "Library's of Congress's" a month in Iraq, and I don't think our coffers can handle a serious economic outlay like a trip to Mars. What does everyone think?
    • I think for the amount of money we've dumped into G.W.'s Middle East Adventure in Iraq we would have already paid for a manned mission to Mars. Space exploration is a minuscule portion of the budget.
    • by sighted (851500) *
      Can we afford what? Robotic missions like the ones being discussed - or human missions? Two very different sets of issues financially. As for spending money on basic science, I think it's a lot more costly in the long run NOT to spend on R&D. (As for the millions wasted in sketchy military adventures, I hear you.)
    • > What does everyone think?

      I think it's depressing to see how screwed up our priorities are. All of that money that we've spent to blow things up could have been spent in SOOOOO many more useful ways. Depressing...
    • by Carnildo (712617)

      I love scientific discovery and exploration too, but I also respect the rule of Finance. Can we afford this? Seriously, we're spending like 1,000 "Library's of Congress's" a month in Iraq, and I don't think our coffers can handle a serious economic outlay like a trip to Mars. What does everyone think?


      I think that if we bring the troops home one day early, the savings will let us fund the space program for a decade.
    • My bad, I didn't make myself clear enough. I wasn't referring to making cuts to all Scientific Exploration. I was referring specifically to a maned mission to Mars. I'm all for robotic exploration, I think we need more of it. I'm just not sure we're considering a Maned mission to Mars for the right reasons. When I heard Bush mention it the first time, it sounded like such an election day promise. I'm worried that under his administration, a maned mission to Mars would be more about the "pictures" and
      • Leaving out the cowboy stuff, you have a fair point, one that some people like the Space Access Society (disclaimer: I'm a proud member thereof) have been worrying about for fifteen years and more: how do we make space travel cheap enough that we can actually afford to do all the wonderful things that we'd like to do out there? It doesn't seem impossible when you look at the technology, but if politicians are running the show for the benefit of their big aerospace contractors, it doesn't seem likely. I re
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here is my opinion of the NASA landing sites chosen to date:

    • Viking 1, Chryse Planitia, boring rubble pile, but hey they got there.
    • Viking 2, Utopia Planitia, boring high latitude plain. They should have been more aggressive with this. Lost opportunity.
    • Mars Surveyor, Isidis Planitia, boring plain. Really dumb choice.
    • Mars Polar Lander, Potentially great site on south polar layered terrain. Too bad they cocked up the landing.
    • Spirit Rover, Gusev Crater, potentially interesting but turned out really bad. T
    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      Actually, I've read that the Mars Science Laboratory lander design could be the basis for multiple landers on Mars. Unlike the Mars Exploration Rovers the MSL uses a radio-isotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which allows for high-latitude operations on Mars itself. That could make it possible for rovers to operate at Mars' polar regions, carrying instruments to look for signs of life in these regions.
  • Tell me how many 5 1/4" Floppies that is, or give me death!
    • by naetuir (970044)
      Not that I figure you're serious, but in the interest of sheer amusement.....

      (26 terabytes) / (1.2 megabytes) = 22,719,146.7

      This is assuming that you are using *high density* 5.25" floppy disks. Now, if you were talking about the low density disks.....

      And.. assuming that my memory doesn't fail me...

      (26 terabytes) / (320 kilobytes) = 87,241,523.2 ...Anytime. ;)
  • The UAC has made the use of traditional landing spots obsolete. They call it "the Ark."
  • For the wont of 4% of the cost of the mission (most is usually the booster), they are pulling the thermal power source that would have let them run at night and in the Martian winter, and many of the science instruments, such as the laser weapon spectroscope for analyzing rocks you can't get to, and the water and other volatile-detecting instruments, which were also missing from Lewis and Clarke (MER-A and B) For the wont of 4%, we are getting another MER-class rover, for more money and no redundancy. Bean

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing for money.

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