Thursday, July 26, 2012

‘Curiosity’ killed the cat?

As I considered what story to cover for today’s blog I found I was at a loss. We stand here on the edge of so many discoveries: the Higgs-Boson, Dark Matter, Nuclear fusion propulsion using Deuterium fuel, Solar Portals, and the list goes on and on.

Or the beauty of the morning sky with Venus, Jupiter, and Aldebaran and if you are early enough you can see Pleiades, well didn’t make the cut.

Then I came across something that disappointed me greatly and I need to know why it may come to pass! ……..We may not actually get to watch the landing of Curiosity on Mars due to an unforeseen bunch of events that show Curiosity may be landing in a crater that we have named Gale’s Crater thanks to a recent incident that resulted in a reaction wheel failure. This wheel failure occurred on Odyssey – the orbiter that it was hoped would track the whole daring maneuver for us and send the data back. The device is used to aim a spacecraft in a way (without firing jets or rockets) either to keep a specific view such as through a telescope or to reduce the ‘mass fraction’ to save fuel.

NASA was able to press into service a ‘spare’ reaction wheel but there is no way to know as yet if the Odyssey will be in position to relay the landing. And what a landing! I hope you have all watched the video on this site that details the landing as it is nothing short of spectacular. First Curiosity uses a supersonic parachute, then the heat shield that protects the rover drops off and no less than eight engines power the descent. Then there is the crane maneuver where a large crane with several umbilical cords or cables gets the rover close to the surface. When it is finally dropped the distance to the ground is just a few hundred meters.

Curiosity should land on the 6th of August in the early hours of the morning. Once it lands its mission will begin; it is to find out whether Mars is or ever was capable of supporting life. It has instruments on board that instead of simply placing stuff aside to be studied back here on Earth, are set up to test the air, the rocks, and the soil. And it can climb heights beyond the tallest American mountain!

**UPDATE** I wrote this yesterday and this morning NASA has managed to get the Odessey into position to confirm to MARS landing!


• Mission goal is to determine whether Mars has ever had the conditions to support life

• Project costed at $2.5bn; will see initial surface operations lasting two Earth years

• Onboard plutonium generators will deliver heat and electricity for at least 14 years

• 75kg science payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier US Mars rovers

• Equipped with tools to brush and drill into rocks, to scoop up, sort and Variety of analytical techniques to discern chemistry in rocks, soil and atmosphere

• Will try to make first definitive identification of organic (carbon rich) compounds

• Even carries a laser to zap rocks; beam will identify atomic elements in rocks

No comments:

Post a Comment