Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Curiosity Right Over

Unlike the Russians, at least we can get our Mars missions out of Earth’s orbit.

NASA launches super-size Mars rover to red planet

The world’s biggest extraterrestrial explorer, NASA’s Curiosity rover, rocketed toward Mars on Saturday on a search for evidence that the red planet might once have been home to itsy-bitsy life.

It will take 8½ months for Curiosity to reach Mars following a journey of 354 million miles.

An unmanned Atlas V rocket hoisted the rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into a cloudy late morning sky. A Mars frenzy gripped the launch site, with more than 13,000 guests jamming the space center for NASA’s first launch to Earth’s next-door neighbor in four years, and the first send-off of a Martian rover in eight years.

See also:
NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars
For NASA’s rover Curiosity, it’s ‘Mars or Bust!’
NASA Launches Hefty Curiosity Rover to Mars
NASA launches $2.5 billion rover to Red Planet
Super-size Mars rover blasts off, biggest robotic explorer ever built to roam another planet
Launch of Nasa Curiosity Mars rover could lead to human mission by 2030
NASA launches super-size rover to Mars: ‘Go, Go!’
NASA rover launched to seek out life clues on Mars
Nasa rover begins journey in search of life on Mars
Curiosity on its way to Mars – November 26, 2011
NASA Rover to Begin Journey to Mars
Curiosity Starts Nine Month Journey to Mars
NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Takes Off
Will NASA’s Curiosity rover find signs of life on Mars?
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory

Well, so far so good, the mission is off to a good start. Of course, there’s still plenty of thing that could go wrong, the landing sequence for setting Curiosity down on the Martian surface looks to be extremely complex, like something Rube Goldberg would come up with.

/for $2.5 billion, Curiosity had better perform as advertised and discover something spectacular

Advertisements

The Little Rover That Could

Opportunity makes the most of its opportunity.

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Sets Longevity Record

Nov. 11, 1982 was a bittersweet day on Earth. It was Veterans Day; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington would be dedicated that weekend. And at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., engineers made a mistake.

They were trying to nurse along the Viking 1 lander on Mars, which had touched down there in 1976 — and surprised them by surviving in the eternal cold there for six years, three months, and 22 days. They transmitted new commands to the ship’s computer so that its batteries would hold a charge better. By accident, they erased data that helped the lander aim its antenna to Earth. Viking 1 was never heard from again.

But its record for longevity has stood. Until now.

Today the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, becomes the longest-lasting earthly visitor ever to the Martian surface. It is still going after 2,247 “sols,” or Martian days. It was designed to last for 90.

“Remember, 90 days is when the warranty runs out,” said Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, after they landed three weeks apart. “It’s not when the wheels fall off.”

Opportunity’s six wheels have occasionally gotten stuck, and one of them will no longer steer. Its circuit boards have had to withstand the subzero temperatures of Martian winters, and another is beginning. Its solar panels, at times, have been covered with fine red silt, which made them almost useless for gathering sunlight to make electricity. Life on Mars is tough.

But the solar panels have mercifully been blown clean every time by gusts of wind, much to the relief of NASA engineers. Careful maneuvering has gotten Opportunity out of the sand — once after six weeks of trying. Today they celebrated Opportunity’s record by doing what they’ve been doing since 2008 — keeping the rover on a forced march to a large crater called Endeavour, now eight miles away on the horizon.

See also:
New Record Set for Longest Mission on Mars
Mars Rover Surpasses Viking 1’s Longevity Record
Longevity Record on Mars for a NASA Space Rover
Mars Rover Sets Endurance Record
Mars rover surpasses Viking 1’s longevity record
NASA Mars rover Opportunity breaks longevity record
Opportunity rover breaks Mars longevity record
Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Home
Mars Exploration Rover

/now that’s what’s called bang for the buck, if only Congress were this efficient with our tax dollars

It’s Fallen, But Can It Get Up?

NASA hopes to free Mars rover from ‘sand trap’

After months of tests and analysis, engineers plan to beam commands to NASA’s Spirit Mars rover Monday, kicking off a long-awaited attempt to free the hardy craft from the talcum powder-like soil of a hidden crater that trapped it last April.

“Spirit’s facing the most challenging situation it’s seen yet on the surface of Mars,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program, said Thursday. “We know a lot of people around the world…view Spirit with great affection, exploring the Red Planet along with it, experiencing the excitement, seeing new and exciting vistas, seeing new landscapes, uncovering some incredible new knowledge about our sister planet.

. . .

“I’d like everybody to be hopeful, but I’d also like them to be realistic,” he said. “If Spirit cannot make the great escape from this sand trap, it’s likely that this lonely spot, straddling the edge of this crater, might be where Spirit ends its adventures on Mars.”

. . .

Last April 23, the six-wheel Spirit was slowly rolling backward on the western side of a feature known as “Home Plate,” heading toward the south and a pair of volcanic structures that scientists wanted to examine. The rover was driving backward because its right front wheel stopped working in 2006.

The ground to the south of Spirit looked normal, but as it rolled along, its wheels broke through an upper-crust-like layer of soil and into a softer, unseen material.

“Essentially, the rover was driving on what we call a dirt crust,” said John Callas, the project manager of the Mars exploration rovers at JPL. “It was a hard surface that we broke through, and underneath this material, camouflaged underneath, was this loose, fine material where the rover is challenged right now.”

Scientists later determined that Spirit’s path was straddling the rim of an ancient, 26-foot-wide crater just beneath the surface. The crater was filled in with sulfate sands that formed layers with different compositions.

Initial attempts to drive out in a crablike fashion by turning the front and back wheels in the same direction only made matters worse.

See also:
NASA to try to free stuck Mars rover Spirit
NASA unveils plan to free sand-trapped Mars rover
Engineers desperate to move plucky Mars rover
NASA to power Mars rover out of sand trap
Unsticking Spirit
NASA Unveils Plan To Unstick A Mars Rover
NASA tries to dig out its stranded Mars robot
Spirit Rover Wiggles Her Wheels
Mars Exploration Rover Mission
Spirit rover

Well, this seems to be quite the heroic rescue attempt for a rover that’s already five years past its three month life expectancy. Go NASA!

/what’s really amazing is that Obama hasn’t canceled this project yet, it must be costing quite a bit of money that he could be wasting on pet Democrat social boondoggles like ACORN instead