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NASA Rover 'Curiosity' Set For Saturday Launch

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the wave-at-phobos-grunt-on-the-way-up dept.

Mars 64

arcite writes "The Mars Science Laboratory Rover 'Curiosity,' an SUV-sized rover packed to the gills with the latest scientific instruments and an innovative landing system, is set to launch tomorrow. As the heaviest and largest Mars rover to date, if it is successful in touching down on the red planet, it will be the best bet yet for NASA to find signs of life. Stuffed with turkey and burned out on holiday shopping, Geeks everywhere will be watching the skies above (or the livestream here) and wishing NASA's Curiosity godspeed!"

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First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38166566)

delay!

Measurements (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38166598)

Just remember to not confuse feet and meters, and I think things will be ok.

Re:Measurements (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38168816)

Dude, don't jinx it!

Re:Measurements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38174764)

Just remember to not confuse feet and meters, and I think things will be ok.

Yards & Meters?

Re:Measurements (1)

pgpalmer (2015142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38180482)

Also, make sure you don't accidentally make a positive number in the coding a negative number. Again.

Let's hope... (-1, Redundant)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166606)

...they didn't mix metric and imperial this time!

PowerPC everywhere, on Mars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38166618)

IBM PowerPC processor High performance, low wattage, reliable operation.

Re:PowerPC everywhere, on Mars (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166930)

Don't forget optionally radiation hardened...

The Landing (4, Interesting)

bjb_admin (1204494) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166692)

Wow the landing video shows how complicated this one is.

The whole hanging by a crane held up by a thruster module seems quite scary. Especially considering it couldn't be tested at Earth.

Guess there will be lots of nail biting when the landing comes! Hopefully there is live telemetry for the landing.

Re:The Landing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38167156)

Do you happen to know why they removed the pre-landing stage? [youtube.com]

Re:The Rickrolling ... er, the Landing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38170816)

Probably because it's been done. Done to death. Rick Astley and Cartoon Network rickrolled the Earth [youtube.com] in the 2008 thanksgiving day parade.

Please think of something better, or something newer. Please? Really?

Really really?

Re:The Landing (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38170766)

Spirit and Opportunity went through the same decent procedure [youtube.com] except they were dropped from the hover instead of placed gently on the surface. They survived, so Curiosity should as well. Besides, there was lots of testing on Earth.

The gills? (3, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166720)

SUV-sized rover packed to the gills

It has gills now? I mean I knew they were considering a kitchen sink to go along with its laser, but gills? There isn't that much water on Mars, is there?

Nah (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38171940)

The author meant to say packed WITH BLUE GILLS. We are sending a bunch of fish there since we think that there is more water than all the fresh h20 on earth. So, the idea is to let blue gills grow there. If they survive, we will send some bass, crappies, a few pike, etc.

Backups (2)

CBung (1572609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166746)

I hope they at least made two of them at once since they went through all that process like they used to do.

Re:Backups (5, Informative)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166844)

They did in fact build two of them simultaneously, however the 2nd rover was built for testing and is not sterile enough to send to Mars without a serious teardown. There may be further reasons why the 2nd rover is unsuitable to go.

Re:Backups (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166886)

It's like those old SF stories where the astronaut who trains hardest for the mission is left behind on Earth because he failed some psychological testing while the slacker is sent into space instead. Hopefully the second rover doesn't chop the first up with an axe on launch day and then sneak on board in its place.

Re:Backups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38169798)

Probably a stupid question, but why all equipment must be sterile? :) Ok, we will bring new bacterias to Mars, so the new evolution could start. Whats the problem?

Re:Backups (1)

StormShaman (603879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38172928)

There could be native microbes on Mars. We wouldn't want to kill off other life in the solar system by accident.

Re:Backups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38232910)

It isn't about killing off any native microbes. It is just about contamination of results. If they do find signs of life, they want to be sure the signs aren't from something brought from Earth.

Re:Backups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38166988)

Why build one when you can have two for twice the price?!

Re:Backups (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167142)

Why build one when you can have two for twice the price?!

Didn't they switch to only building one in the 'smaller, faster, cheaper' days because they could just build a replacement at low cost if the first mission failed?

The problem is that this mission is neither smaller, faster or cheaper.

There was life on mars (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166762)

but this killed the martian leopard by landing on it

Re:There was life on mars (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#38171728)

...and then it runs over the Martian Bunny [nasa.gov] .

Is this thing on? (4, Interesting)

crumpty (2517360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166810)

I have looked around and cannot find the answer as to whether Curiosity has a microphone on board.

If not then why not?

Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine, - who wouldn't want to hear the winds of Mars?

Cheers...

Re:Is this thing on? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166840)

I have looked around and cannot find the answer as to whether Curiosity has a microphone on board.

If not then why not?

Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine, - who wouldn't want to hear the winds of Mars?

In space, no one can hear you scream.

Re:Is this thing on? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38166880)

Because you touch yourself at night, that's why.

Cheers...

Re:Is this thing on? (4, Insightful)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167026)

Atmospheric pressure at surface level on Mars is about 1% of Earth's pressure at surface. There's not much to hear. It's not going to be totally silent, but sound will be extremely quiet and distorted.

Re:Is this thing on? (1)

crumpty (2517360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38168138)

Understand the pressure situation yet the velocities of the Martian winds are not insignificant. This is an inexpensive project to undertake but always gets overlooked.

Y'all just don't get the gravity of the situation; wait, uh, different topic. >;=)

Re:Is this thing on? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38172096)

The ill-fated polar lander had a microphone so scientists do think there's some value in recording sound on Mars. Obviously the microphone was different than anything intended to be used on earth due to the very difference in atmospheric pressure but saying that there isn't much to hear is simply wrong - there certainly are things to be heard with the right kind of microphone. I remember an interview in which one of the people involved said that it would be possible to hear the drill work on rocks and winds blowing past the rover but the more interesting thing would be to find out what sounds could be captured that couldn't be predicted in advance - possibly some electrical discharges in the atmosphere. Personally, I do think it's a shame that no mission with a microphone has made it to Mars yet since sounds - in addition to pictures - are what captures the interest of laypersons better than any data about the chemical composition of rocks...

Re:Is this thing on? (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167112)

If not then why not?

So we can't hear the poor thing cry when it enters the extended mission phase:

http://xkcd.com/695/ [xkcd.com]

HEY! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167536)

Not to mention the screams of the invisible martians we run over using our SUV sized rover... "Hello? Please stop! You're killing us!"

Holy hell, they built a MALP! (5, Interesting)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166812)

Have you heard about the instrument package??

two HD cameras
mass spectrometers
chemical laser
x-ray diffractometer
full terrestrial weather station
radiation meter
magnetometer
rock abrasion tool
thermal emission spectrometer
Moessbauer gamma spectrometer
panoramic multispectral camera
microscopic imager

They could send one of these to Titan to discover once and for all if that moon could ever be settled...

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (4, Funny)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166900)

Have you heard about the instrument package??

A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff...

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167198)

Even if it hairlips everybody on bear creek!

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166902)

Yeah, but that would prevent them from collecting whatever it is they've found on Mars.

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166908)

but they wont because some scifi of the 1940-60's has beaten it into everyone's skull that Mars is the only place to go in the universe, meanwhile we cant spend a dime on titan, that would just be stupid

Its a conspiracy ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167318)

They could send one of these to Titan to discover once and for all if that moon could ever be settled

but they wont because some scifi of the 1940-60's has beaten it into everyone's skull that Mars is the only place to go in the universe, meanwhile we cant spend a dime on titan, that would just be stupid

Yep, there must be some conspiracy behind electing to send our "first" probes to a closer, more habitable and larger destination. :-)

Re:Its a conspiracy ... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38168184)

hardly first, were just redoing it in HD this time

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (2)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#38166994)

This rover probably wouldn't survive Titan very well. In the first TFA they state that Curiosity's potential landing zones are up to 45 degrees from the equator. Meaning it's not designed to withstand a martian arctic. And the warmest beach on Titan is going to be at least twice as cold as the most frigid dump on Mars.

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38167078)

landing zones are more a matter of orbital mechanics as well as thermal constraints. It's not so much the cold, as the seasonal fluctuation range (you can always put radioactive heaters in to keep it warm if it's ALWAYS cold outside)

A bigger problem with going to Titan is the length of time to get there and the size of the rocket needed.

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167372)

Oh, I don't know... Voyager 2 was launched on a 150-odd foot rocket back in 1977. For a direct trajectory journey of eight months to Jupiter even a Saturn V (at more than twice the height) wouldn't have been enough, fuel wise. The "Grand Tour" was calculated to minimise the amount of fuel needed by using the gravity well of the inner planets and the sun to slingshot the probes out to the outer planets, saving vast amounts of fuel at the cost of several years to make the trip. Even in manned space flight they have to use gravity assist (Apollo 13, for example) because the fuel requirements for direct trajectory just to the moon are physically prohibitive.

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38167534)

"They could send one of these to Titan to discover once and for all if that moon could ever be settled..."

Beep beep boop boop Space Nutter detected! [scienceagogo.com]

I don't think you need to send a probe to Titan to see if it could be settled. We could, however, send you back to high school for some remedial reality classes?

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (0)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167708)

Said the AC.

Look, how about posting something constructive instead of your idiotic drivel, or just go away and leave we intelligentsia to our own devices, hm?

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38168442)

Right, because "let's colonize Titan" isn't idiotic drivel... Grow up, fuck nuts.

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38172898)

That guy's trolling, but he (accidentally) touched on a good point.

I can't see us settling on Titan, given the hostile environment both there and en route. One problem that immediately springs to mind is the dense atmosphere of extremely cold and toxic substances. I can't see you even leaving your ship in a space-suit because (unlike on mars or the moon) convection would rapidly cool you down to lethal temperature.

Or does someone have numbers proving otherwise?

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (1)

PwnzerDragoon (2014464) | more than 2 years ago | (#38170714)

ACs are so cute when they think their opinion matters!

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182678)

Magnetometer? Why?

A list of the instruments is given on the NASA site at: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/missions/current/mars-science-laboratory/

Re:Holy hell, they built a MALP! (1)

aviators99 (895782) | more than 2 years ago | (#38187246)

full terrestrial weather station

That's a neat trick...
Send a probe to Mars just to tell us our weather here on Earth?

I don't believe (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167064)

I don't believe they are going to find signs of life on the surface, past or present. Millions of years of sand storms would have erased any surface signs. They need to look for caves or drill or just go to the polar ice cap and be done with it.

Re:I don't believe (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167612)

I don't believe they are going to find signs of life on the surface, past or present. Millions of years of sand storms would have erased any surface signs. They need to look for caves or drill or just go to the polar ice cap and be done with it.

Not all rock capable of bearing fossils would have been exposed during that entire timeframe. I believe the probe contains tools to "dig" a little into rocks to get past outer layers affect by erosion and surface chemistry. It seems to be a matter of finding just the right rock, not unlike hear on earth.

Re:I don't believe (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38168790)

But known life needs water,plants need water and the beat place for that on mars is the polar caps. Its just seems to me the very best place to look is being ignored for some reason. We have the tech to put a probe anywhere we want

Re:I don't believe (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38171226)

The poles may be where water is found now, however there are signs of running water elsewhere on Mars. So the search for fossilized remains is not limited to the poles. I think the expectations for finding life today is pretty low. What is more plausible is that life existed in a distant era when water more distributed across the surface and Mars had more of an atmosphere. So landing near appropriately aged rocks may be more useful, or maybe where the geography suggests that water had once flowed.

Cat-killer (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167160)

With a name like "Curiosity" I would expect it to be bent on the destruction of life (at least the feline variety), not discovery.

Future Headlines (3, Funny)

cstacy (534252) | more than 2 years ago | (#38167746)

(1) Curiosity will last longer than advertised design life, headlines will be "The Nine Lives Of Curiosity" (2) Curiosity will accidentally be driven into a crater or something, headlines will be "Curiosity Killed The Cat" (3) both

Weather gonna be fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38168180)

From the space.com article:

"The weather is a bit more of a wild card. A cold front is predicted to move into Florida's Space Coast beginning this evening, likely bringing with it some gusty winds and increased cloud clover by Saturday, weather officials said."

That was on the 23rd. But as of today, a frontal system, which is currently over west texas, won't get any further east than mississippi/alabama on saturday; maintaining the current good weather. Sweet!

http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/data/geo/east/latest_east_ir4_conus.jpg
http://188.40.59.3/wz/pics/Rnamavn421.png

fErist stop (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38168254)

`mod 0p (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38168302)

that supports Nigger Ass`ociation

Hourray! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38168924)

Great! Another rover will be sent to Mars to collect probe the dirt and look for "signs of life". What number is this, 6? It is apparent that Mars lacks breathable air, surface water, and, more generally, life. Why not send life-seeking probes to Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, or even Titan? At least those worlds feature liquid oceans of some kind therefore there is at least a chance that they may harbor life.

Re:Hourray! (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38169276)

Because 1) Those probes (even all SIX of them) have barely scratched the surface 2) as hard as it is Mars is an order of magnitude easier to get to than Europa and 3) there are plenty of folks who would just LOVE to plan and execute complex missions to the outer planets and moons but are stymied by a certain lack of funding.

Got any extra cash you care to devote to the cause?

Re:Hourray! (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38170316)

Going to Europa is harder than going to Mars, sure, but I wouldn't say an order of magnitude harder. It's not like the probe has to keep burning fuel all the way to the destination -- just shoot it towards the right trajectory and it'll coast all the way there. It just takes longer to arrive.

BTW I was surprised to learn that the delta-v required to take a spacecraft from LEO to the surface of Mars is LESS than going from LEO to the surface of the Moon... after taking into account the fuel you save by using aerobraking.

Re:Hourray! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38170954)

It's not so much the delta V needed for Europe..

The design environment is MUCH tougher. Mars is pretty benign radiation-wise.. 20krad total dose would be a typical requirement. Europa needs megarad total dose parts and even then, you might wind up with herculean efforts for shielding and fault tolerance.

The telecom problem is harder for Europa.. you're at 5-6 AU instead of 0.5 to 2 AU, so you need either need bigger antennas (tough on a lander), or a combination lander and orbiter relay, or bigger RF power amplifiers, which consumes more electrical power

More power is hard (unless you go nuclear, but that brings its own set of problems) because you need more area of solar cells, which drives up the size of the lander, which in turn means you need a bigger spacecraft, which in turn means less mass for science instruments for the current launch vehicles. Or, you go on a gravity assist trajectory, but that increases mission duration, which increases failure probability and radiation dose.

Titan might actually be easier than Europa, especially if you can use RTG power.. get there in about the same time, but the radiation is a lot less, so you don't have to spend as much mass on shielding.

Juno is a good example of a very short lived mission, using gravity assist, and using many kilos of shielding, as well as enormous solar panels.

Wait, everywhere? (2)

shirque (1335717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38171354)

Stuffed with turkey and burned out on holiday shopping, Geeks everywhere will be watching the skies ...

Either your definition of "everywhere" stops at the US border or you really believe Thanksgiving and Black Friday are global phenomena.

Re:Wait, everywhere? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38173412)

Either your definition of "everywhere" stops at the US border or you really believe Thanksgiving and Black Friday are global phenomena.

Eh. Clearly the bigger mistake was assuming that geeks eat turkey, and venture offline for shopping.

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