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Mars NASA Science

New Mars Rover Rolls For the First Time 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-them-doggies-rollin dept.
wooferhound writes "Like proud parents savoring their baby's very first steps, mission team members gathered in a gallery above a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to watch the Mars Curiosity rover roll for the first time. Engineers and technicians wore bunny suits while guiding Curiosity through its first steps, or more precisely, its first roll on the clean room floor. The rover moved forward and backward about 1 meter (3.3 feet). Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) is scheduled to launch in fall 2011 and land on the Red Planet in August 2012. Curiosity is the largest rover ever sent to Mars. It will carry 10 instruments that will help search an intriguing region of the Red Planet for two things: environments where life might have existed, and the capacity of those environments to preserve evidence of past life."
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New Mars Rover Rolls For the First Time

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  • August 2012: Mars rover discovers proof of complicated life forms on mars
    December 2012: We get WTFPWNBBQed

  • Wheels (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Friday July 30, 2010 @03:05PM (#33087112) Journal
    I've always wondered why the rovers aren't designed with bigger wheels and bubble-ish tires (not saying they have to be inflated) like on a truck outfitted for work in a swamp. Every time we read that one of the existing rovers got stuck and the folks at JPL were working on getting it unstuck, I'd think the same thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I've always wondered why the rovers aren't designed with bigger wheels and bubble-ish tires (not saying they have to be inflated) like on a truck outfitted for work in a swamp.

      Because, among other reasons, there's only so much available to work with. Bigger tires means less room available for something else - or you have to accept complex (and potentially failure prone) inflating/unfolding mechanisms. (Which are going to up the cost.)

      Designing a spacecraft is a complex trade off between hundreds o

    • "bubble-ish tires (not saying they have to be inflated)"

      Then how do you make them "bubble-ish"? This thing has to operate on MARS, not in your back yard. The temperatures are extremely different, the conditions are different, etc. It's not a simple matter of "well, just use technology XYZ that we use here on earth".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by barzok (26681)

        Take a look at the wheels designed for the lunar rover [wikipedia.org]. They seemed to work out pretty well.

        • Exactly. Seeing the GPs query, the mesh tires were the first thing I thought of too. They worked on the low gravity and soft surface of the moon, can't see why they wouldn't work on Mars.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by PitaBred (632671)

          The Lunar Rover had a person there to kick it if the mechanism jammed.

        • Also operated only within the gravity of the MOON. Mars has a lot more gravity.
        • The moon has no atmosphere. Any dust kicked up from the tires (and there was a lot) immediately fell back to the lunar surface. On Mars, there is an atmosphere, and any dust that gets kicked up would float around and get on all the instruments. This is not a good thing.
    • Well I imagine a swampy environment is different than that of the environment on Mars. Perhaps its just Hollywood that's lead me to believe its much more dustier than it is wet, and that most if any water was closer to frozen. And that it's not so much an issue that they get into a pit of sand, or anything like a swamp, but that a dust storm comes up, buries the thing half way deep, and then they have trouble getting it out.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Um, aren't the Martian swamps where the dinosaurs and hot cave women chicks live?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      The cost of the mission is largely related to the cost of making and launching the rover. The reason why probes are made of exotic materials and fold up so compactly is that every kilogram costs tens of thousands of dollars to launch into space, and increased physical size means a larger & heavier shell. The increased cost of materials is more than made up by the reduced cost of fuel. The bigger and heavier the rover, the more it costs to send it to Mars. They can only get so much budget for a proje

    • by viper34j (1401493)
      Bigger wheels = more wheel weight = bigger engine needed to rotate = more power. Power is the #1 concern of the rovers while on Mars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PPH (736903)

      NASA meets Pimp My Ride.

      JPL: "We're not sure what happened. We powered down the rover ovenight and this morning its up on cement blocks and missing its wheels."

      On the other hand, putting hydraulics on it might help getting it unstuck.

    • by orient (535927)
      A metal wheel has better grip and is easier to free than a rubber wheel.
    • ...and for the life of me, I don't know why, considering Spirit has shown how easy it is to get bogged even with autonomous ground-plotting software. The Lunar Rover mesh wheels worked perfectly, were lightweight and durable, why not do the same? Alternately, if I were in charge of wheel design I would perhaps consider a more spherical wheel cross-section. I recall something I saw whilst browsing Google Patents which was a 1930's swamp buggy machine that had spherical wheels. The softer the terrain the furt
    • I've always wondered why the rovers aren't designed with bigger wheels and bubble-ish tires

      Have you seen the pictures of this rover [wikipedia.org]? The wheels are about knee high [planetary.org] and about the same wide. They are on a rocker-bogey system that can scale objects twice the wheel height [planetary.org].

      Every time we read that one of the existing rovers got stuck and the folks at JPL were working on getting it unstuck, I'd think the same thing.

      The rover is not stuck because of the wheels. It is stuck because the body is hung up on
      • Oops, premature submit. Sorry folks.

        If you want my opinion, they should be using something like the ATHLETE [nasa.gov] as a base instead of the rocker-bogey system. That way, they could just walk [nxtbot.com] the rover out of trouble.
      • Just curious... is it hung up on the rock because it sank into the sand while going over it?
    • by 7-Vodka (195504)
      What?? why not make it a tracked vehicle. Tracked vehicles are so much better in off-road situation than wheels it's not even funny. Here is a home-made tracked vehicle from 7 years ago [youtube.com]
      • Being tracked doesn't help if you're hung up on something. Spirit is stuck on a rock, not bogged down in the sand.
  • Those tires are at least as big as my garden tractor and it has six of them.
    That and its body looks like a cross between a battle ship and a Dalek.
    But what matters most though, is if it works well and has new science capability.
  • Hope they fix the dust collecting on the solar panels issue.
    Something as simple as compressed air blowing on the panels would do the trick.
    Since there is a thin atmosphere on Mars, they could just have a little compressor pump the Martian air instead of an air or CO2 canister.

    • Not even an issue. (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/rover/energy/

      "The Mars Science Laboratory rover will carry a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay. This power source gives the mission an operating lifespan on Mars' surface of at least a full Martian year (687 Earth days) or more while also providing significantly greater mobility and operational flexibility, enhanced science payload capability, and exploration of a much larger range of latitudes and altitud

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blahbooboo (839709)

      Hope they fix the dust collecting on the solar panels issue. Something as simple as compressed air blowing on the panels would do the trick. Since there is a thin atmosphere on Mars, they could just have a little compressor pump the Martian air instead of an air or CO2 canister.

      Yes, it's nuclear powered... problem solved :)

      • Sssh, the torch and pitchfork carrying mob will here you use the other 'n' word and start to panic.

    • This rover is carrying it's own power and will not have any solar panels. http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/technology/technologiesofbroadbenefit/power/ [nasa.gov]
  • So do we have a better idea of the mars defense grid locations, or is this one going to be "lost" on landing?
    • by PPH (736903)
      "There's an interesting rock outcropping over there to investigate. It's shaped just like a Martian plasma cannon."
  • I've always wondered why NASA makes such huge and complicated probes when they could just make many, many tiny and expendable ones. I recall seeing a project under consideration where a fairly large number of probes would roll around looking for signs of water. Since there would be so many of them, we wouldn't suffer a total loss if a probe took a somewhat risky maneuver down a steep ravine, for example. I always hold my breath when a robot deploys or is transported for the first time, so I can only imag
    • The first modern probe, pathfinder was a cute little thing that mostly just took pictures. Then came the robo-geologists Spirt and Opportunity about the size of golf carts. Now its Curiosity the size of an SUV. It need retro rockets to land instead of airbags. And has more reliable nuclear power instead of solar.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because it would still cost about as much to get each one to Mars- probably a lot more, as you'd need multiple launch vehicles unless you make them really tiny and not very capable. Also, the smaller and cheaper you make 'em, the less science each can do. The multi-probe way might be the way to go if you're just rolling around looking for sites that may have had water present in the past, but what do you do when you discover an interesting spot? With the big probe, you crank up the arm with rock grinder, sc

      • Exactly, you explained it much better than I could have.

        But we've done the big probe, can't reach interesting areas thing - why not try many small single/dual purpose probes? And yeah, I'm talking very tiny with just enough transmission power to get their signals back to the orbiter above. I see both angles, I'm just raising a general talking point.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Because rovers are PR stunts. Real work gets done from orbit. We already have a map of the underground water reserves of Mars [nasa.gov], we even have a clear picture of water snow [futurehi.net] (we know it is not CO2 snow). All of these results brought from ESA orbiters. Sadly, ESA lacks the public relation office that NASA has...
  • ISTR that the Apollo LM was constructed for the Moon's gravity and would collapse under its own weight on Earth. It's interesting that a vehicle that's made for a 0.38G environment works on Earth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Larson2042 (1640785)
      Though a vehicle may be designed to work in 0.38 earth gravity, that doesn't mean it will collapse or otherwise not work in standard earth conditions. Most often the structural driver for spacecraft, rovers, etc is the launch vehicle environment. Curiosity will be going up on an Atlas V, which will subject the rover to 5-6 G and a strenuous acoustic, shock, and vibration environment. In addition to the launch loads, it also has to survive the sky-crane landing on the surface of Mars. So it really isn't too
  • Engineers and technicians wore bunny suits while guiding Curiosity through its first steps

    Sometimes I really wish "bunny suits" actually meant costumes of bunnies... Space exploration could use a little more whimsy.

  • The rover will be equipped with weaponry for use against cats.
  • NASA may understand things related to aeronautics and space, but, sadly, they sure as heck don't understand HTML very well:

    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D298_50.jpg" target="_blank" class="captionText")
    (img src="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D298_50.jpg" width="120" height="90" ...
    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D298_50.jpg")Full Size Image(/font)(/a) ...

    and:

    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D853_50.jpg" target=

  • Am I the only one that misread the headline and expected to see an announcement that Rolls Royce had won a bid to build a Mars rover for the first time?

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