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NASA Mars Space Science Technology

Cutting Edge Tech Slated For Next Mars Rover 143

Posted by timothy
from the seems-like-a-good-place-to-start dept.
oxide7 writes "NASA is pushing the boundaries of technology as it readies its next mission to Mars, loading up its 4th Mars Rover with nearly a dozen instruments and deploying an innovative but risky landing procedure. Scientists and engineers were piecing together some of the final components to the new rover, dubbed Curiosity, on Saturday as it ramps up for a high-stakes launch in November."
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Cutting Edge Tech Slated For Next Mars Rover

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  • by rts008 (812749) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @04:52PM (#37089054) Journal

    They want to explore a crater, not make a new one.

    NASA engineers and 'rocket scientists' have already determined that the 5 ton rover is too heavy for that method.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @05:19PM (#37089256) Homepage

    No they could not. The MER (Mars Exploration Rover - Opportunity and Spirit) system can't land heavy payloads in a narrowly defined landing zone. Using that system, you get a landing ellipse of about 100 km2 area restricted to a band about 40 degrees above and below the equator (IIRC). For many, many interesting targets, that isn't good enough. You are also constrained to payloads about the same size as the baby rovers.

    Yes, you can argue that the next step should be dozens of MER craft landed in many different zones. That is certainly a valid argument and one that has been made. However, according to the nice rocket scientists that have studied this for years (as opposed to us armchair astronauts who study things for 10 minutes max), it was felt that more significant research needed heavier payloads delivered with better accuracy.

    I think there should be enough money in NASA's budget to fund both concepts (and Venus landers and Titan blimps and on and on) but I'm just a taxpayer.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @06:20PM (#37089664)

    The MER (Mars Exploration Rover - Opportunity and Spirit) system can't land heavy payloads in a narrowly defined landing zone.

    And it's worth noting that NASA doesn't have a need to land in a narrowly defined landing zone, at least one much more narrowly defined than the MER were already capable of landing in.

    That is certainly a valid argument and one that has been made. However, according to the nice rocket scientists that have studied this for years (as opposed to us armchair astronauts who study things for 10 minutes max), it was felt that more significant research needed heavier payloads delivered with better accuracy.

    I would feel the "need" for a couple of billion dollars too. Keep in mind that this is a rover with a fair bit of range, allegedly more than the MERs. Further, its target is the Gale Crater, which, according to Wikipedia, is almost 100 miles in diameter. You don't need a pin-point landing.

    As to "heavier instruments", It's worth noting that 8 or so MERs carry almost as much.

    Finally, we have to consider both the degree of risk, namely, this is a riskier mission than one using a proven vehicle, and the concentration of risk, namely, the eggs are all in one vehicle. It matters because NASA, due to the way it structures space science missions, only has a few slots going to Mars. Any accident sets them back by years since they don't have another vehicle deployed which overlaps with the mission's goals or capabilities.

    I don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand the problems with a mission approach.

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