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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, Interesting)

    by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Monday July 04, 2011 @09:11PM (#36656848)

    As an engineer, that skycrane contraption sets off my alarms of being an extremely complicated and scary solution. It lacks the simplicity of earlier landers with a sequence of chutes, retro rockets, and airbag expansions. Though still being single point failures, they were not actively controlled and could use simple backup timers to make sure everything deployed if at all possible. (Full disclosure: I'm a JPL engineer, but not in EDL and not working on MSL, and of course my opinions are purely my own).

    Of course for a mobile vehicle that large, I can't think of a better solution that could fit on a launch vehicle, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

    Given that, though, if it fails, i doubt it would be resurrected. MSL already has a bad track record of delays and problems, and a reputation as a money sink (though not as bad as JWST). Also, I have a bias towards more smaller and cheaper missions (and as a deep space navigator, rovers are quite dull for me professionally) so I would actually rather have the money spent on more New Frontiers and Discovery class missions.

  • Re:Classic comment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Scatterplot ( 1371103 ) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:06PM (#36657342)
    Yeah, I get butterflies thinking about this thing landing. I'm told that the skycrane has been tested extensively on Earth and the engineers involved are not any more worried about that than about the chain of other more mundane things that can go wrong between launch and instrument check-out in situ. As to previous elegant solutions, I think I would have been just as antsy about the beach-ball landing scheme of the MER had I been in the biz back then (disclosure: I'm a scientist at JPL).

Science may someday discover what faith has always known.