Mars Space Geek – Curiosity seen from orbit

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Curiosity, on Mars, from orbit.  Photo taken by HiRISE.  Just wow.

To give you a sense of scale, here’s the Curiosity’s twin on Earth:

CuriosityRover

 

Science!

(and, as an aside… if NASA can take pictures like this from orbit, and release them, can you imagine what spy satellites are capable of these days? It boggles the mind.  Next time you’re outside, look up, smile, and wave.  It’ll give the CIA and NSA guys something to wonder about!)

Mars is a real place.

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Pictures like this just enthrall me.  This is a real place. On another planet.

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They’re NASA and they know it…

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7 Minutes of Terror – landing on Mars – by Sky-Crane

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This is the best video I’ve seen so far explaining how Curiosity was designed to land.  I’m just amazed that it worked.  Twelve year old Space Cadet Jimmiejoe was bouncing up and down, telling me it was going to work no sweat, but I really didn’t believe him.  I worried that the parachute would fail, or the heat shield would get hung up, or the retro-rockets wouldn’t fire correctly… and I really sweated the whole sky-crane thing.  That was just crazy writ large!  Hover 60 feet in the air, and drop this huge thing down on a tether?  Are they nuts??  Then the tethers had to be cut, allowing the rocket frame to fly away.  If that hadn’t worked, it would have dropped on top of the lander once it’s fuel ran out.

BUT IT WORKED!

Congratulations to NASA and JPL!

You know what would be cool?  I know it can’t happen, but wouldn’t it be something if Curiosity could, at the end of it’s science programs, drive to one of the other lander’s locations, just to visit?  Too far, over terrain that would probably be impossible, and the mechanisms of the machine would likely never survive, but that would be something to see.

Space Cadet Jimmiejoe is a happy boy – Curiosity safely on Mars

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Photo illustration by NASA

Here’s what it might look like if you were there right now.  Curiosity is safely on the surface of Mars!  After a 7 minute landing program that took the lander from 13,000 MPH to a soft landing, the first pictures have been downloaded.  Science starts soon!

 

Photo: Mars Curiosity/NASA

The parachute popped exactly right.  The retro-rockets fired perfectly, bringing it to a hover over the ground, then dropped it to the ground on a sky crane system that has never before been attempted.  Now the rover begins at least two years of science work.

Space Cadet Jimmiejoe is jumping up and down like crazy.  I’m glad to see he’s still around.

Mars Geek: Spirit Gives Up The Ghost

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Spirit has died.  One of two NASA rovers on Mars, no contact has been made with the plucky little machine since March 2010.  NASA had been hoping that with the return of summer to the region, the amazing little machine would come back to life.  Sadly, it appears that will not happen.

Transmissions to the Martian surface from Earth, and from orbiting relay stations have failed to elicit a response.  Age and the terribly cold Martian winter have finally silenced the science lab on wheels.

The next generation rover, Curiosity, is nearing it’s launch date, and NASA must reconfigure Earth bound transmission arrays, as well as the satellites orbiting Mars, to support the new mission.  Spirit will stand silent sentinel near Gusev crater now, slowly collecting a layer of Mars dust, waiting for the day when humans arrive to reclaim the sturdy little machine designed to operate for 90 days.  Landing January 5, 2004, Spirit studied Mars for 6 years.  Perhaps, someday, we’ll collect up Spirit, and return it home.  An honored spot at the Smithsonian would be appropriate, I think.  It’s certainly earned that distinction.

It’s twin, Opportunity, still roves on the other side of the planet, sending science back to eager researchers on Earth.

NASA Geek – Curiosity Rover Takes a Test Drive

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NASA’s latest Mars rover, Curiosity, passed an agility test by successfully navigating a set of ramps.  Each wheel can maneuver independently, allowing for the flexibility needed to traverse the rocky Martian surface autonomously. Set for launch in late November 2011, the car sized mobile science machine will study Mars for two years or more.

For NASA’s latest article, check out this JPL site.

More pics after the jump.

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