Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by bystander » Thu Jun 02, 2011 7:42 am

Camera Duo On Mars Rover Mast Will Shoot Color Views | 2011 May 31
Mast Camera View of Curiosity's Deck

The left eye of the two-camera Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity took the images combined into this mosaic of the rover's upper deck. The images were taken in March 2011. At the time, Curiosity was inside a space simulation chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for testing under thermal conditions like those the rover will experience on the surface of Mars.

Mastcam's left eye, Mastcam 34, has a 34-millimeter focal length lens providing a medium field of view. The instrument's right eye, Mastcam 100, has a 100-millimeter telephoto lens. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built the instrument and two other cameras on Curiosity.

The front of the rover is toward the right in this image. On the left is the outer cover for the mission's nuclear power source, a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. At far right is the turret a the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. The light-colored hexagonal object in the top left quadrant of the mosaic is the high-gain antenna, which is about 10 inches (25 centimeters) across.
Two digital color cameras riding high on the mast of NASA's next Mars rover will complement each other in showing the surface of Mars in exquisite detail.

They are the left and right eyes of the Mast Camera, or Mastcam, instrument on the Curiosity rover of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, launching in late 2011.

The right-eye Mastcam looks through a telephoto lens, revealing details near or far with about three-fold better resolution than any previous landscape-viewing camera on the surface of Mars. The left-eye Mastcam provides broader context through a medium-angle lens. Each can acquire thousands of full-color images and store them in an eight-gigabyte flash memory. Both cameras are also capable of recording high-definition video at about eight frames per second. Combining information from the two eyes can yield 3-D views of the telephoto part of the scene.

Motivation to put telephoto capability in Curiosity's main science imaging instrument grew from experience with NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and its studies of an arena-size crater in 2004. The science camera on that rover's mast, which can see details comparably to what a human eye can see at the same distance, showed intriguing patterns in the layers of Burns Cliff inside Endurance Crater.

"We tried to get over and study it, but the rover could not negotiate the steep slope," recalled Mastcam Principal Investigator Michael Malin, of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "We all desperately coveted a telephoto lens." NASA selected his Mastcam proposal later that year for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

The telephoto Mastcam, called "Mastcam 100" for its 100-millimeter focal-length lens, provides enough resolution to distinguish a basketball from a football at a distance of seven football fields, or to read "ONE CENT" on a penny on the ground beside the rover. Its images cover an area about six degrees wide by five degrees tall.

Its left-eye partner, called "Mastcam 34" for its 34-millimeter lens, catches a scene three times wider -- about 18 degrees wide and 15 degrees tall -- with each exposure.

Researchers will use the Mastcams and nine other science instruments on Curiosity to study past and present environments in a carefully chosen area of Mars. They will assess whether conditions have been favorable for life and favorable for preserving evidence about whether life has existed there. Mastcam imaging of the shapes and colors of landscapes, rocks and soils will provide clues about the history of environmental processes that have formed them and modified them over time. Images and videos of the sky will document contemporary processes, such as movement of clouds and dust.

Previous color cameras on Mars have taken a sequence of exposures through different color filters to be combined on Earth into color views. The Mastcams record color the same way consumer digital cameras do: They have a grid of tiny red, green and blue squares (a "Bayer pattern" filter) fitted over the electronic light detector (the charge-coupled device, or CCD). This allows the Mastcams to get the three color components over the entire scene in a single exposure.

Mastcam's color-calibration target on the rover deck includes magnets to keep the highly magnetic Martian dust from accumulating on portions of color chips and white-gray-balance reference chips. Natural lighting on Mars tends to be redder than on Earth due to dust in Mars' atmosphere. "True color" images can be produced that incorporate that lighting effect -- comparable to the greenish look of color-film images taken under fluorescent lights on Earth without a white-balancing adjustment. A white-balance calculation can yield a more natural look by adjusting for the tint of the lighting, as the human eye tends to do and digital cameras can do. The Mastcams are capable of producing both true-color and white-balanced images.

Besides the affixed red-green-blue filter grid, the Mastcams have wheels of other filters that can be rotated into place between the lens and the CCD. These include science spectral filters for examining the ground or sky in narrow bands of visible-light or near-infrared wavelengths. One filter on each camera allows it to look directly at the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, a key part of Mars' weather.

"Something we're likely to do frequently is to look at rocks and features with the Mastcam 34 red-green-blue filter, and if we see something of interest, follow that up with the Mastcam 34 and Mastcam 100 science spectral filters," Malin said. "We can use the red-green-blue data for quick reconnaissance and the science filters for target selection."

When Curiosity drives to a new location, Mastcam 34 can record a full-color, full-circle panorama about 60 degrees tall by taking 150 images in about 25 minutes. Using Mastcam 100, the team will be able to broaden the swath of terrain evaluated on either side of the path Curiosity drives, compared to what has been possible with earlier Mars rovers. That will help with selection of the most interesting targets to approach for analysis by Curiosity's other instruments and will provide additional geological context for interpreting data about the chosen targets.

The Mastcams will provide still images and video to study motions of the rover -- both for science, such as seeing how soils interact with wheels, and for engineering, such as aiding in use of the robotic arm. In other videos, the team may use cinematic techniques such as panning across a scene and using the rover's movement for "dolly" shots.

Each of the two-megapixel Mastcams can take and store thousands of images, though the amount received on Earth each day will depend on how the science team chooses priorities for the day's available data-transmission volume. Malin anticipates frequent use of Mastcam "thumbnail" frames -- compressed roughly 150-by-150-pixel versions of each image -- as an index of the full-scale images held in the onboard memory.

Malin Space Science Systems built the Mastcam instrument and will operate it. The company's founder, Michael Malin, participated in NASA's Viking missions to Mars in the 1970s, provided the Mars Orbiter Camera for NASA's Mars Global Surveyor mission, and is the principal investigator for both the Context Camera and the Mars Color Imager on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The science team for Mastcam and two other instruments the same company provided for Curiosity includes the lead scientist for the mast-mounted science cameras on Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity (James Bell of Arizona State University); the lead scientist for the mast camera on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander (Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University); James Cameron, director of such popular movies as “Titanic” and “Avatar”; and 17 others with expertise in geology, soils, frost, atmosphere, imaging and other topics.

Mastcam 100 and Mastcam 34 were installed onto Curiosity in 2010. Until March 2011, a possibility remained open that they might be replaced with a different design: two identical zoom cameras. A zoom camera has adjustable focal length, to change from wider-angle to telephoto or vice-versa. That design had been Malin's original proposal. NASA changed the plan to two different fixed-focal-length cameras in 2007 as a cost-cutting measure that preserves the capability for meeting the science goals of the mission and the instrument. The agency funded a renewed possibility for using the zoom-camera design in 2010, but the zoom development presented challenges that could not be fully overcome with enough time for required testing on the rover.

Mastcam 34 took images for a mosaic showing Curiosity's upper deck during tests in March 2011 inside a chamber simulating Mars surface temperature and air pressure. Testing of the rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will wrap up in time for shipping the rover to NASA Kennedy Space Center in June. Testing and other launch preparations will continue there. The launch period for the Mars Science Laboratory is Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011, with landing on Mars in August 2012.
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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by BMAONE23 » Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:20 pm

How about a Color Video Cam

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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by bystander » Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:20 pm

BMAONE23 wrote:How about a Color Video Cam
Both mastcams can provide high-def video.

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/news/whats ... NewsID=990
http://asterisk.apod.com/viewtopic.php? ... 94#p128424
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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by bystander » Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:07 pm

Curiosity Continues Mobility Checkouts | 2011 Jun 13
Spacecraft specialists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have been putting the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, through various tests in preparation for shipment to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida this month.

A new set of images online shows the rover maneuvering its robotic arm and driving in JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility, where it was built. The images are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/m ... index.html .

Assembly and testing work is on track for launch of the Mars Science Laboratory from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011.
Radar for Mars Gets Flight Tests at NASA Dryden | 2011 Jun 17
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Southern California’s high desert has been a stand-in for Mars for NASA technology testing many times over the years. And so it is again, in a series of flights by an F/A-18 aircraft to test the landing radar for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission.

The flight profile is designed to have the F/A-18 climb to 40,000 feet (about 12,000 meters). From there, it makes a series of subsonic, stair-step dives at angles of 40 to 90 degrees to simulate what the Mars radar will see while the spacecraft is on a parachute descending through the Martian atmosphere. The F/A-18 pulls out of each dive at 5,000 feet (about 1,500 meters. Data collected by these flights will be used to finesse the Mars landing radar software, to help ensure that it is calibrated as accurately as possible.
The testing is a collaboration of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Earlier tests, with a helicopter carrying the test radar, simulated the lower-altitude portion of the spacecraft's descent to the surface of Mars. For more information about the F/A-18 tests, see http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/ ... radar.html .
NASA Mars Rover Arrives in Florida After Cross-Country Flight | 2011 Jun 23
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
NASA's next Mars rover has completed the journey from its California birthplace to Florida in preparation for launch this fall.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover, also known as Curiosity, arrived late Wednesday night at NASA's Kennedy Space Center aboard an Air Force C-17 transport plane. It was accompanied by the rocket-powered descent stage that will fly the rover during the final moments before landing on Mars. The C-17 flight began at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., where the boxed hardware had been trucked from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The rover's aeroshell -- the protective covering for the trip to the Red Planet -- and the cruise stage, which will guide it to Mars, arrived at Kennedy last month. The mission is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18. The car-size rover will land on Mars in August 2012.

"The design and building part of the mission is nearly behind us now," said JPL's David Gruel, who has managed Mars Science Laboratory assembly, test and launch operations since 2007. "We're getting to final checkouts before sending the rover on its way to Mars."

The rover and other spacecraft components will undergo more testing before mission staff stack them and fuel the onboard propulsion systems. Curiosity should be enclosed in its aeroshell for the final time in September and delivered to Kennedy's Launch Complex 41 in early November for integration with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Curiosity is about twice as long and more than five times as heavy as any previous Mars rover. Its 10 science instruments include two for ingesting and analyzing samples of powdered rock delivered by the rover's robotic arm. During a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- researchers will use the rover's tools to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.
New Animation Depicts Next Mars Rover in Action | 2011 Jun 24
Although NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will not leave Earth until late this year nor land on Mars until August 2012, anyone can watch those dramatic events now in a new animation of the mission.

The full, 11-minute animation shows sequences such as the spacecraft separating from its launch vehicle near Earth and the mission's rover, Curiosity, zapping rocks with a laser and examining samples of powdered rock on Mars. A shorter, narrated version is also available.

Curiosity's landing will use a different method than any previous Mars landing, with the rover suspended on tethers from a rocket-backpack "sky crane."

The new animation combines detailed views of the spacecraft with scenes of real places on Mars, based on stereo images taken by earlier missions.

"It is a treat for the 2,000 or more people who have worked on the Mars Science Laboratory during the past eight years to watch these action scenes of the hardware the project has developed and assembled," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Pete Theisinger at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The animation also provides an exciting view of this mission for any fan of adventure and exploration."
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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by neufer » Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:22 am

http://www.universetoday.com/87047/gale-crater-reported-front-runner-for-msl-landing-site/ wrote:
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
The flythough video of Gale Crater
with a pair of possible traverse paths for MSL
put together by UnmannedSpaceflight‘s Doug Ellison,
Gale Crater Reported Front-Runner for MSL Landing Site
by Nancy Atkinson on June 24, 2011

<<A 150-kilometer-wide hollow on Mars named Gale Crater has emerged as the front-runner for the potential landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which will head to Mars this fall. Nature News and the Planetary Society Blog report that following a meeting of project scientists last month, Gale came out on top of four different locations as the preferred destination for the next Mars rover. However, the final decision has not been made or announced, and NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler has the final word. He is expected to make the final decision on Friday with a formal announcement of the site to follow next week.

According to planetary scientist Matt Golombek, who was part of the selection committee, Gale Crater has a high diversity of geologic materials with different compositions, created under different conditions. Most interesting is evidence of different minerals arranged in stratigraphical context. “Stratigraphy records multiple early Mars environments in sequential order,” Golombek said at a teleconference for Solar System Ambassadors and Solar System Educators earlier this year. “Gale is characteristic of a family of craters that were filled, buried and exhumed, and will provide insights into an important Martian process.”

The actual landing ellipse is a smooth area with few craters, which is a great and safe place for landing. But the MSL rover – which is the size of a small car – could then take a few 100 sols and head out for more interesting terrain where the sedimentary strata is deposited. There’s a giant 5-kilometer high hill in the middle of the crater, and the rover could traverse up through the lower most layers.>>
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JPL: NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater

Post by bystander » Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:02 pm

NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater
NASA JPL-Caltech | Mars Science Laboratory | 2011 July 22
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
NASA's next Mars rover will land at the foot of a layered mountain inside the planet's Gale Crater.

The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land in August 2012. The target crater spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Layering in the mound suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. The crater is named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale.

"Mars is firmly in our sights," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Curiosity not only will return a wealth of important science data, but it will serve as a precursor mission for human exploration to the Red Planet."

During a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- researchers will use the rover's tools to study whether the landing region had favorable environmental conditions for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life ever existed.

"Scientists identified Gale as their top choice to pursue the ambitious goals of this new rover mission," said Jim Green, director for the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The site offers a visually dramatic landscape and also great potential for significant science findings."

In 2006, more than 100 scientists began to consider about 30 potential landing sites during worldwide workshops. Four candidates were selected in 2008. An abundance of targeted images enabled thorough analysis of the safety concerns and scientific attractions of each site. A team of senior NASA science officials then conducted a detailed review and unanimously agreed to move forward with the MSL Science Team's recommendation. The team is comprised of a host of principal and co-investigators on the project.

Curiosity is about twice as long and more than five times as heavy as any previous Mars rover. Its 10 science instruments include two for ingesting and analyzing samples of powdered rock that the rover's robotic arm collects. A radioisotope power source will provide heat and electric power to the rover. A rocket-powered sky crane suspending Curiosity on tethers will lower the rover directly to the Martian surface.

The portion of the crater where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water.

"One fascination with Gale is that it's a huge crater sitting in a very low-elevation position on Mars, and we all know that water runs downhill," said John Grotzinger, the mission's project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "In terms of the total vertical profile exposed and the low elevation, Gale offers attractions similar to Mars' famous Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system."

Curiosity will go beyond the "follow-the-water" strategy of recent Mars exploration. The rover's science payload can identify other ingredients of life, such as the carbon-based building blocks of biology called organic compounds. Long-term preservation of organic compounds requires special conditions. Certain minerals, including some Curiosity may find in the clay and sulfate-rich layers near the bottom of Gale's mountain, are good at latching onto organic compounds and protecting them from oxidation.

"Gale gives us attractive possibilities for finding organics, but that is still a long shot," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at agency headquarters. "What adds to Gale's appeal is that, organics or not, the site holds a diversity of features and layers for investigating changing environmental conditions, some of which could inform a broader understanding of habitability on ancient Mars."
Giant Crater Is Next Mars Rover Landing Site
Wired Science | Dave Mosher | 2011 July 22

NASA says Mars mountain will read like 'a great novel'
PhysOrg | Kerry Sheridan | 2011 July 22

Geologic Enigma Is Target of Next Mars Rover
Science Insider | Richard A Kerr | 2011 July 22

NASA picks Mars landing site
Nature News | Eric Hand | 2011 July 27
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Re: JPL: NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater

Post by neufer » Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:18 pm

bystander wrote:NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater
Image
Gale Storm
<<"One fascination with Gale is that it's a huge crater sitting in a very low-elevation position on Mars, and we all know that water runs downhill," said John Grotzinger, the mission's project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "In terms of the total vertical profile exposed and the low elevation, Gale offers attractions similar to Mars' famous Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system." Curiosity will go beyond the "follow-the-water" strategy of recent Mars exploration. The rover's science payload can identify other ingredients of life, such as the carbon-based building blocks of biology called organic compounds. Long-term preservation of organic compounds requires special conditions. Certain minerals, including some Curiosity may find in the clay and sulfate-rich layers near the bottom of Gale's mountain, are good at latching onto organic compounds and protecting them from oxidation. "Gale gives us attractive possibilities for finding organics, but that is still a long shot," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at agency headquarters. "What adds to Gale's appeal is that, organics or not, the site holds a diversity of features and layers for investigating changing environmental conditions, some of which could inform a broader understanding of habitability on ancient Mars.">>
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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by bystander » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:54 pm

JPL’s ‘Muscle Car’ – MSL – Takes Center Stage
Universe Today | Jason Rhian | 2011 Aug 14
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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by bystander » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:10 pm

Mars Science Laboratory Meets its Match in Florida
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MSL | 2011 Oct 05
In preparation for launch later this year, the "back shell powered descent vehicle" configuration containing NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been placed on the spacecraft's heat shield.

The matchup was performed by technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The heat shield and the spacecraft's back shell form an aeroshell that encapsulates and protects the rover from the intense heat it will experience during the final leg of the trip to Mars-the friction-filled descent through the Martian atmosphere.

The mission is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18. Arrival at Gale Crater on Mars is expected in August 2012.

After arrival, the Curiosity rover will investigate whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.
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UT: Assembling Curiosity’s Rocket to Mars

Post by bystander » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:36 pm

Assembling Curiosity’s Rocket to Mars
Universe Today | Ken Kremer | 2011 Oct 09
Assembly of the powerful Atlas V booster that will rocket NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory rover to Mars is nearly complete. The Atlas V is taking shape inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The rocket is built by United Launch Alliance under contract to NASA as part of NASA’s Launch Services Program to loft science satellites on expendable rockets.

The Atlas V configuration for Curiosity is similar to the one used for Juno except that it employs one less solid rocket motor in a designation known as Atlas 541.

4 indicates a total of four solid rocket motors are attached to the base of the first stage vs. five solids for Juno. 5 indicates a five meter diameter payload fairing. 1 indicates use of a single engine Centaur upper stage.

Blastoff of Curiosity remains on schedule for Nov. 25, 2011, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. The launch window for a favorable orbital alignment to Mars remains open until Dec. 18 after which the mission would face a 26 month delay at a cost likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Curiosity is set to touchdown on Mars at Gale Crater between August 6 & August 20, 2012. The compact car sized rover is equipped with 10 science instruments that will search for signs of habitats that could potentially support martian microbial life, past or present if it ever existed.

Behind the Scenes: Curiosity’s Rocket Prepared at Vertical Integration Facility
Universe Today | Jason Rhian | 2011 Oct 10

Behind The Scenes: United Launch Alliance’s Horizontal Integration Facility
Universe Today | Jason Rhian | 2011 Oct 11

Mars Science Laboratory’s Gateway to Space – The Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center
Universe Today | Jason Rhian | 2011 Oct 15
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How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by neufer » Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:07 pm

Art Neuendorffer

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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by owlice » Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:31 pm

Watching now: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl

Thanks, neufer!
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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by owlice » Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:59 pm

Less than 3 minutes!
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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by Doum » Sat Nov 26, 2011 3:01 pm


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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by Doum » Sat Nov 26, 2011 3:55 pm

Congratulation! Great launch.

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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by Beyond » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:03 pm

I not only got to see Curiosity's launch, but while waiting for the final separation, i discovered that 2-honeybees were curious about the yellow siding on the backside of my house. Here it is November 26 and the bees are still buzzing. Maybe they were curious about Curiosity's launch and wanted to come in to watch??
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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by owlice » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:44 pm

So did you let them in, Beyond?

It was a beautiful launch!! Gave me goosebumps.
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Re: How to watch Curiosity's launch

Post by Beyond » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:53 pm

No. Even though they are beeutiful, i don't understand their buzzwords and didn't want to end up with a stinging conversation. And they had already missed the launch anyway.
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Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory Launch

Post by bystander » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:59 pm

NASA Launches Most Capable and Robust Rover to Mars
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Re: Curiosity: Mars Science Laboratory

Post by bystander » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:27 pm

Comet Curiosity? MSL Looks Like a Comet as it Heads Toward Mars
Universe Today | Nancy Atkinson | 2011 Nov 28
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Credit: ozalba (YouTube)
On the 26th of November 2011, the Mars Science Laboratory was launched from Cape Canaveral. This timelapse sequence shows a plume drifting against the background stars, probably caused by venting from the Centaur rocket after it carried out a burn over the Indian Ocean.
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Star Wars

Post by neufer » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:56 pm

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/29/curiosity_mars_rover_raygun_specs/ wrote: Revealed: Full specs on Mars rover's nuclear laser heat ray

Megawatt beam to disintegrate the red planet's pinheads
By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 29th November 2011 13:56 GMT

<<The Register rayguns desk is pleased to report that we have now obtained full specifications on the powerful laser heat-ray disintegrator blaster fitted to the NASA Mars rover Curiosity, which departed planet Earth on Saturday and is even now hurtling through the void of space towards a rendezvous with destiny in the red planet's Elysium Planitia region. The information on the magnificent robot's raygun installation was furnished to us by the boffins of the US Los Alamos National Laboratory, who collaborated with French space scientists to produce it.

First up is the headlining spec: Curiosity's laser is mighty indeed, capable of putting out a beam at no less than megawatt intensity. This is impressive stuff, in the same range as the savagely powerful war-ray of the US Airborne Laser Test Bed project, intended to destroy enemy intercontinental missiles soaring up from their launch pads at distances perhaps as much as 400km, which requires a mighty jumbo jet to lift it.

While Curiosity is large as Mars rovers go, the Mars-prowling recon robot weighs only a ton: it is a tiny fraction of the size of the ALTB jumbo. And yet its seems that its raygun is of equal puissance, such that the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying Curiosity could easily function as a powerful space battlecruiser should the need arise.

But in fact it turns out that the Martian explorer's beam can be sustained only for tiny instants of time, just enough for it to vapourise "an area the size of a pinhead" from the rocks or clayey ancient mud strata of the Gale Crater, at ranges of up to 23 feet. This disintegration of the Martian dirt under the rover's heat-ray (for the laser operates in the infrared) will cause it to scatter and emit telltale light, revealing its chemical makeup to "ChemCam" instruments on the vehicle.

“ChemCam is designed to look for lighter elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, all of which are crucial for life,” says Roger Wiens, principal investigator on NASA's ChemCam team. “The system can provide immediate, unambiguous detection of water from frost or other sources on the surface as well as carbon - a basic building block of life as well as a possible byproduct of life. This makes the ChemCam a vital component of Curiosity’s mission.”

Apart from the laser heatray disintegrator pinhead blaster, the Los Alamos boffins have also been involved in sorting out Curiosity's nuclear powerpack, which provides juice for the laser and all the rover's other systems (unsurprisingly, as Los Alamos was a key location in early US nuclear research). Solar panels couldn't furnish enough energy, reliably enough, for such a large and capable rover in the relatively feeble Martian sunlight.

The MSL spacecraft is expected to reach Mars on August 5, 2012, at which point its next great challenge - that of making a safe landing on the red planet's surface - must be overcome before its mission can begin properly. ®>>
______ King Henry V Prologue

Chorus: O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
  • The brightest heaven of invention,
    A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
    And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
    Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
    Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
    Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
    Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
    The flat unraised spirits that have dared
    On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
    So great an object: can this cockpit hold
    The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
    Within this wooden O the very casques
    That did affright the air at Agincourt?
    O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
    Attest in little place a million;
    And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
    On your imaginary forces work.
    Suppose within the girdle of these walls
    Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
    Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
    The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
    Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
    Into a thousand parts divide on man,
    And make imaginary puissance;
    Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
    Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
    For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
    Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
    Turning the accomplishment of many years
    Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
    Admit me Chorus to this history;
    Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
    Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.
Art Neuendorffer

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neufer
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Re: Star Wars

Post by neufer » Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:00 pm

http://www.planetary.org/blog/ wrote:
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
neufer wrote:
Visible at the bottom of the image is the venting of gases, probably from the Mars Science Laboratory Centaur rocket stage, as seen from the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium in Australia. The Orion Nebula is at the top. Photo by Duncan Waldron.
About 9 hours [after the Australian observations], Austrian amateur observer Gerhard Dangl recorded another lovely time-lapse movie, of a much more distant, star-like Curiosity. In the 36 minutes comprising this video (about 10.5 hours after its November 26 launch), Curiosity traveled 10,000 kilometers farther from Earth. :arrow:
Art Neuendorffer

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Curiosity - do they KNOW the skycrane works?

Post by JohnD » Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:01 pm

All,
Everyone is looking forward to Curiosity landing on Mars. But NASA have chosen a very new touch down technology, the Skycrane. Have they tested it?

Plenty of animations available of how it is supposed to work, but no video that I can find of any test
There is a meeting of the engineers, at which is run what looks to me like a simulationof a drop of the Rover from a crane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT7bEHuvYAQ
and an actual test of the drop mechanism that lowers the Rover from the hovering Skycrane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YasCQRAWRwU
The latter has the skycrane fixed to the roof of a hanger.

What I want to know is, does the hovering by rocket idea really work? Have they tested it, and is there a video to prove it?
It not, why not?
It's clearly possible, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn6xIfY_3zM and many others found by "rocket hovering".
Even more spectacular, this!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9mNNA2gEF8

I'm not hatching a conspiracy theory, just anxious for the thing to work as advertised.

John

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Re: Curiosity - do they KNOW the skycrane works?

Post by owlice » Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:53 pm

What, for something to exist/have been tested/etc., it must appear on YouTube??
A closed mouth gathers no foot.

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Re: Curiosity - do they KNOW the skycrane works?

Post by JohnD » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:09 pm

That's where I found the videos I linked to.
Google Video does no better, and that searches far and wide.

Look, I'm not criticising anyone, I've no agenda,I want this mission to work, but if there had been tests of such an innovative system, wouldn't NASA have been proud to make them available? But they show cartoons. I can see that the rockets that work on Mars would not on Earth, so they would have to be more powerful, but that's a detail. It's the guidance system that is important. Lots of evidence that such systems DO work, see my previous.

John