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NASA Mars Space Science Technology

Cutting Edge Tech Slated For Next Mars Rover 143

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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  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @04:41PM (#37088602) Homepage

    Yes. There is a nice explanation at the Curiosity site (I think) that goes through the various thought processes but basically, IIRC

    - The payload AND landing zone requirements made the rubber ball bouncing technique not viable
    - The unload off a ramp technique that the current rovers use doesn't scale well and has the major problem of failure if it lands on anything other than reasonably flat terrain. This limited the science and the landing site too much.
    - The retrorocket system has been used by Viking and the current rovers
    - The skycrane approach has a number of major advantages in terms of terrain avoidance, design of the rover, and size of payload at the expense of complexity.

    The teams apparently felt that the risks were worth the benefits. Basically, they felt that unless the technology was pushed forward, the science packages would be too limited.

    It is rocket science after all.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday August 15, 2011 @01:11AM (#37091434) 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.

    I think you misunderstand me. People fixate on Curiosity's skycrane, and think that it's new and overly complicated. It's not new. Everybody seems to forget that Spirit and Opportunity ALSO used a similar Parachute-Retrorocket-Tether system []. All they seem to remember is the airbag part of it. Spirit's and Opportunity's "skycranes" brought them to a hover in mid air and then cut them loose. They had to endure a drop equivalent to jumping off of a fourth floor balcony. This is why they needed the air bags.

    In contrast, Curiosity's "skycrane" is going to lower it gently to the ground, not drop it from 50 feet in the air. There's much less risk involved with Curiosity's landing than Spirit's or Opportunity's. So, given that the MERs not only survived their riskier skycrane descent, and plummet to the ground, but thrived, odds are high that Curiosity will do the same.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.