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Mars NASA Space

NASA's Next Mars Rover 104

An anonymous reader writes "In August 2012, the NASA rover Curiosity is scheduled to touch down on the surface of Mars. The size of a small car, it's four times as heavy as predecessors Spirit and Opportunity, and comes with a large robot arm, a laser that can vaporise rocks at seven meters, a percussive drill and a weather station. Oh, and 4.8kg of plutonium-238. Wired has some high-resolution photographs from lab that is putting the next rover together." Curiosity's destination on Mars has reportedly been chosen: Gale Crater. The 150-kilometer wide depression 'includes a tantalizing 5-kilometer-high mound of ancient sediments, [and] may have once been flooded by water.' The Planetary Society blog has a couple of additional pictures and a time-lapse video of the delicate, lengthy process of preparing the lander for transport. Curiosity will launch near the end of 2011. No cats were harmed during its construction.
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NASA's Next Mars Rover

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  • Re:Classic comment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Monday July 04, 2011 @07:59PM (#36656536)

    Mars eats orbiters for lunch and landers for dinner, unfortunately. It's called "rocket science" for a reason. If we limited our efforts to sure-fire bets, we'd still be squinting through telescopes and wondering who dug the canals.

    I'm confident that if anyone can pull off a project this ambitious, the JPL folks can. If they fail, I'll be happy with raising my taxes by the $1.50/year it will cost to try again.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Monday July 04, 2011 @09:16PM (#36656874)

    Heh, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, because I haven't followed his work since the Cassini episode. But before that, he actually was a decent science writer, someone who could bring leading-edge physics down the mountain and talk intelligently to the people who are asked to fund it.

    That's why I was so disillusioned when he went off the deep end. Science desperately needs good communicators like Kaku... and it needs them to not go full retard.

  • Re:Classic comment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Monday July 04, 2011 @10:21PM (#36657148) Homepage

    "I'll be happy with raising my taxes by the $1.50/year it will cost to try again."

    So would I. Unfortunately they're going to cut our taxes by $1.50 and spend the money anyway.

  • Re:Classic comment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday July 04, 2011 @10:54PM (#36657276) Journal
    My understanding (slight as that may be) is that the vehicle is too heavy to land by parachute in the thin Martian atmosphere.

    BTW, what did you think of the DIRECT architecture?
  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @03:03AM (#36658146)

    The consequences of such an event shouldn't be ignored.

    And they weren't. End of story.

    Everything else you wrote is either wrong or completely irrelevant. There are no lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima that can be applied to RTGs, and no analogies between them can be drawn except for ones comparing apples with spoons.

    RTGs don't work even remotely like a nuclear reactor of any type, well-engineered, poorly-engineered, or otherwise. It's not clear that plutonium is as dangerous [] as people have been told it is. In particular, there seems to be no scientific backing for the usual claim that a single inhaled particle is 'guaranteed' to cause cancer. RTGs containing various radioisotopes have been damaged in accidents before with no apocalyptic consequences [],.

    When you build an RTG you use such a small amount of radioactive material that it's feasible to encapsulate it in a manner that renders it reasonably safe under any reasonably conceivable failure conditions. (Launch-pad explosions are not all that violent, frankly -- Kaku's major concern with Cassini was the Earth flyby, where a miscalculation would have exposed the RTG to much greater heat and higher mechanical stress.)

    The launch will probably be successful, and if it's not, it's very unlikely that anyone will die from plutonium exposure as a result. Those are the only guarantees you'll get from any honest engineer. They're good enough for me, they're good enough for you, and they're good enough for the good Dr. Kaku.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur