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Mars Science

Mars Rover Curiosity Sealed Up For Launch 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-cats-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-this-rover dept.
astroengine writes "On Oct. 5, less than two months before it will be launched, Mars Science Laboratory 'Curiosity' was sealed between its heat shield and back shell at Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The next time the one-ton rover sees daylight will be on Aug. 6, 2012, as the heat shield separates after successful entry through the Martian atmosphere, shortly before Curiosity touches down inside Gale Crater."
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Mars Rover Curiosity Sealed Up For Launch

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  • by PPH (736903) on Friday October 07, 2011 @02:54PM (#37642960)

    ... my car keys?

  • Cute, whimsical and fitting for such a robot!

    I believed it was one by a student (elementary?) who submitted it in a contest!

    On the downside, it is a little to "NASA-Like". (Though I suppose that was a "plus" in NASA's book).

  • These rovers are the coolest thing NASA has done in a long time.

    I feel weird posting without making a snide remark.

    • Rover, singular.

      Which is annoying. One glitch on landing, a stuck wheel, bad comms, whatever, and the whole mission is a waste. This not only wastes the existing mission, but poisons the next mission.

      Always make a backup.

      • by cornface (900179)

        I was including the other two rovers in my comment, but yeah.

        • Ah. Fair enough.

          (Although, at the risk of flogging a dead horse, I suspect it would have seemed less impressive had they only flown the first MER, Spirit. Jammed wheel, later bogged. It would have exceeded it's designed life, but having Opportunity elevates the mission from "Successful" to "Wildly exceeded our every expectation!" Likewise, imagine Voyager 1 without Voyager 2, no Uranus/Neptune encounters. Beagle lander burned in, no backup meant no mission. Phoenix lander, glitchy from the start, failed fir

          • Spirit had run for 2208 sols when it's design life was only 90 sols. Even if Spirit were the only rover, it would still be in the "Wildly exceeded our every expectation!" class.

            I am perplexed, though, as to why they are only sending one of these rovers. The bulk of the cost of a rover is in the design process. Building multiple rovers does not increase the cost much. And, as you point out, multiple landers increase the likelihood of success.
  • And the things you will discover. I'm so psyched about the RTG on this thing. Certainly years, and hopefully decades of work to be done.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday October 07, 2011 @03:24PM (#37643226) Homepage

    Curiosity's official name is the Mars Science Laboratory. This thing is massive, like really massive. Instead of a dinky little probe like Sojourner or the slightly larger Spirit and Opportunity rovers, Curiosity is about the size of an SUV. This will be the largest rover ever sent to another planet by an order of magnitude. It will be able to do all sorts of interesting geological experiments. It doesn't have that much direct life searches, which is unfortunate because the original life searches on the Viking probes was so inconclusive (most of the tests were positive but no organic molecules were found. There's been some suggestion that certain chlorine compounds in the soil could have destroyed the organics when heating).

    There's a very good animation of the plan for Curiosity landiing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4boyXQuUIw [youtube.com]. The whole process is complicated, involving aero breaking, then rocket breaking and while the rockets hover the whole probe over the ground, the rover is slowly lowered onto the surface. There are unfortunately a fair number of points of failure for this. If it does work though this will be a triumph of modern engineering and give us a lot more knowledge about Mars.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      It's actually a little smaller than a mini cooper. It still outmasses all the other rovers put together though and is the biggest single thing we've ever landed there.

    • by Nethead (1563)

      Not even NASA can resist adding sound effects in a vacuum.

      • Have you ever watched a webcam porno on a generic porn-tube site that has no sound because the drunken college girls couldn't splurge for a microphone before going all online-slut for their temporary boyfriends? It totally takes away from the raw, uninhibited, and sloppy lesbian action that you want to experience and, in the worst cases, it can completely ruin the porn.

        Making a badass computer animation of one of the most complex aerospace engineering systems to be designed in the last few decades and th
        • by Nethead (1563)

          When the PR clip is from NASA, I expect it to be correct. Things going whoosh in space take the fun out of it for me. Of course I grew up reading Clarke, not watching Star Wars.

          They still could have had very weak audio for the parts on Mars.

          This is freaking science, not popcorn sci-fi.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Sour us. Its entertaining, everyone knows there isn't sound.

            That what I would expect from some one who has to compartmentalized science fiction so he can stroke his boner and feel superior.

            Me, I can enjoy both.

            It's NASA. They do science, but they are also people who like to have fun.

            • by Nethead (1563)

              In the words of Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, "You're a jerk, a complete arsehole," Garrett.

      • Not even NASA can resist adding sound effects in a vacuum.

        Those are the fluctuating magnetic fields of the spacecraft interfering with the audio circuitry in the camera. Duh!

    • by tenco (773732)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4boyXQuUIw

      soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydOmN1894MY [youtube.com] (song has interestingly nice timings for this animation)

    • by pnewhook (788591)

      This will be the largest rover ever sent to another planet by an order of magnitude.

      Yes MSL is big at 900kg, but the Russian Lunokhod2 lunar rover that landed on the moon in 1973 was 840kg, So order of magnitude bigger only applies to the American rovers.

    • There's a very good animation of the plan for Curiosity landiing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4boyXQuUIw [youtube.com]. The whole process is complicated, involving aero breaking, then rocket breaking and while the rockets hover the whole probe over the ground, the rover is slowly lowered onto the surface. There are unfortunately a fair number of points of failure for this. If it does work though this will be a triumph of modern engineering and give us a lot more knowledge about Mars.

      The Mars entry/descent/landing sequence for Curiosity is pretty much identical to that of Spirit and Opportunity [youtube.com]: Aerobraking, Parachute, Retro-rocket hover, and then tether deploy. The only difference is that Curiosity is going to be gently set on the ground instead of dropped like a rock with the hopes that the air bags will cushion it enough against a 40g impact.

  • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Friday October 07, 2011 @03:30PM (#37643286)

    I noticed the wheels are covered with foil and the retro-thrusters look like they have giant rubber stoppers in them. Does anyone know the purpose of these? I am assuming the stopper things would be launched out when they're fired but how does the foil come off the wheels once at Mars? (or is that just a protective covering for until the thing is fully loaded and ready to be launched into space?)

    • by Silm (1135973)

      Both the wheel covering as well as the thruster plugs have been removed before final packaging.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Protective. The "Amerstat" coverings are simply to protect the wheels. You can see in the picture with the heat shield that the bags have been removed, as well as the covers for the decent engines. There are many "remove before flight" items like that will be or have been removed before launch. If you recall video of the rover driving last year, the rover had an entirely different set of wheels (those were the ATLO, Assembly Test and Launch Operations wheels, these are the flight wheels).

    • It keeps the government from reading its thoughts.
  • The next time the one-ton rover sees daylight will be on Aug. 6, 2012 as the heat shield separates after successful entry through the Martian atmosphere, shortly before Curiosity touches down inside Gale Crater."

    Or it could be when the heat shield shatters upon high-velocity impact with the Martian surface.

  • How pedestrian. Send one to Titan!

    • by Rei (128717)

      A Titan exploration craft wouldn't likely be a "rover" (although it could be). Anything more elaborate than the Huygens probe will, of course, be nuclear powered, but that's about all we can say for sure. Many different options have been explored, including, but not limited, to:

      * Hydrogen-filled balloon (hydrogen doesn't burn on Titan, and all lifting gasses would work exceedingly well in the low gravity/dense atmosphere)

      * Nuclear RTG hot air balloon (actually, the math suggests it'd work

      • Many different options have been explored, including, but not limited, to:

        Don't forget the proposed boats. We've never done boats before.

    • by Convector (897502)

      Ask, and ye shall receive. The Titan Mare Explorer [wikipedia.org] is one of the finalists for the next Discovery mission.

  • ..that the lander is programmed with the same units as the calculations this time...
  • Dr. Who will still find a way to get in and plant a video about aliens. And Captain Kirk will transport anyone that meddles with it.
    • Either that or Sarah Jane will cut the feed before the roll up on the pyramids.. (*sniffle* Sarah Jane.. *sads*)
  • Curiosity is powered by an RTG. Every time we launch something with a nuclear power source a horde of demonstrators show up in an effort to stop the launch.
    • Curiosity is powered by an RTG. Every time we launch something with a nuclear power source a horde of demonstrators show up in an effort to stop the launch.

      That's OK. This is the US, free speech and all. In fact, we should give them ringside seats.

    • by pnewhook (788591)

      Every time we launch something with a nuclear power source a horde of demonstrators show up in an effort to stop the launch.

      Yes I welcome this. In fact if the rocket does blow these idiots will be the first to go.

      • They may be the first to go, but it won't be from the RTG (unless it hits someone on the head). They are designed to survive a launch mishap.
  • What does Mars sound like? It has an atmosphere, so there should be some sound... of air blowing across the plains or something... has it ever been recorded?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      sound like:
      sssshhhhhhsssshshhssssss.

      seriously, mars sounds like this:
      http://tinyurl.com/453kvj5 [tinyurl.com]

    • by pnewhook (788591)

      What does Mars sound like? It has an atmosphere, so there should be some sound... of air blowing across the plains or something... has it ever been recorded?

      Yes, in the Phoenix mission. Sorry I don't have a handy link to add.

    • by mikael (484)

      This page has audio of the Phoenix probe descending through the amosphere [esa.int]

      There is an animation of objects moving in the wind [nasa.gov]

      Theoretically, if you had a fast enough light sensor, you could use video capture to record the changing reflections of light on an object due to the Martian wind. Like the old cub-scout science badge experiment of gluing a small piece of mirror to a plastic membrane over a paper cup, then watching the changing reflections of light due to air vibrations.

    • The bigger question is whether or not there would be sound if the lander wasn't there.

      Personally, I want them to put a loudspeaker on so I can yell at Mars.

  • "...after successful entry through the Martian atmosphere..."

    This is NASA after all!!!
  • ...of the coincidence between this story and Steve Job's death? I posit that Jobs is not dead (really, let me be the first) but in actuality is sealed up with MSL in stasis (an mPod I guess) in a bid to be the first human on Mars.

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