APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

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APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by APOD Robot » Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:08 am

Image Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars

Explanation: Next stop: Mars. This past weekend the Mars Science Laboratory carrying the Curiosity Rover blasted off for the red planet atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, as pictured above. At five times the size of the Opportunity rover currently operating on Mars, Curiosity is like a strange little car with six small wheels, a head-like camera mast, a rock crusher, a long robotic arm, and a plutonium power source. Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars next August and start a two year mission to explore Gale crater, to help determine whether Mars could ever have supported life, and to help determine how humans might one day visit Earth's planetary neighbor.

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by owlice » Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:52 am

Yay!!! I got goosebumps watching this (online) take off; I'm glad we're sending another rover to Mars. Go, Curiosity!!
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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by Vincent Pinto » Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:04 am

Saw it online too. Applauded at each of the important stages of the flight, but especially at spacecraft separation! Eagerly looking forward to EDL!

RafaSp

Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by RafaSp » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:01 am

Got a question about launch preparations: I've seen that the rover was cleaned and then enclosed in the reentry shell. This, in turn, was enclosed by the fairing and then, the whole vehicle+fairing, installed on top of the Centaur stage. However here http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mul ... ages/?s=51 you can see that the nuclear power supply was lifted and put on the rover once it was already sitting on top of the launch vehicle. Does that mean that they had to open the fairing, reentry shell and rover just to install it and later, close them again? Also, I understand that they had to clean the inside of the fairing just prior to close it around the vehicle, to prevent contamination of the payload. That was done in a clean facility. What about contamination produced when they opened it again in a much less controled environment such as the launch gantry to put the RTG in place?

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by orin stepanek » Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:42 pm

I hope the reentry and landing is as successful as Spirit's and Opportunity's was! :wink:
Orin

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by neufer » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:39 pm

RafaSp wrote:
Got a question about launch preparations: I've seen that the rover was cleaned and then enclosed in the reentry shell. This, in turn, was enclosed by the fairing and then, the whole vehicle+fairing, installed on top of the Centaur stage. However here http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mul ... ages/?s=51 you can see that the nuclear power supply was lifted and put on the rover once it was already sitting on top of the launch vehicle. Does that mean that they had to open the fairing, reentry shell and rover just to install it and later, close them again? Also, I understand that they had to clean the inside of the fairing just prior to close it around the vehicle, to prevent contamination of the payload. That was done in a clean facility. What about contamination produced when they opened it again in a much less controlled environment such as the launch gantry to put the RTG in place?
If you don't get an answer you might consider asking that question here:

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/inde ... 1737&st=45

Also check out: http://planetary.org/blog/article/00003276/
http://www.universetoday.com/91341/no-nukes-nasas-plutonium-production-predicament/#more-91341 wrote:
No Nukes? NASA’s Plutonium Production Predicament
by Jason Major on November 29, 2011 <<Mars Science Laboratory, launched three days ago on the morning of Saturday, November 26, is currently on its way to the Red Planet – a journey that will take nearly nine months. When it arrives the first week of August 2012, MSL will begin investigating the soil and atmosphere within Gale Crater, searching for the faintest hints of past life. And unlike the previous rovers which ran on solar energy, MSL will be nuclear-powered, generating its energy through the decay of nearly 8 pounds of plutonium-238. This will potentially keep the next-generation rover running for years… but what will fuel future exploration missions now that NASA may no longer be able to fund the production of plutonium?

Pu-238 is a non-weapons-grade isotope of the radioactive element, used by NASA for over 50 years to fuel exploration spacecraft. Voyagers, Galileo, Cassini… all had radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) that generated power via Pu-238. But the substance has not been in production in the US since the late 1980s; all Pu-238 has since been produced in Russia. But now there’s only enough left for one or two more missions and the 2012 budget plan does not yet allot funding for the Department of Energy to continue production.

Other nuclear sources in the form of Plutonium, Thorium, and Curium isotopes do exist and could be conceivably incorporated into RTGs; all, however, have problems. Some have unfavorable half-lives; others release too little energy or hazardous penetrating gamma-rays. Plutonium238 has high energy output throughout an appreciable life span, and its alpha particle emissions can be easily contained. Where will future fuel come from? How will NASA power its next lineup of robotic explorers? (And why aren’t more people concerned about this?)>>
Art Neuendorffer

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by IThinkImMe » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:14 pm

Something I'm a little confused on;
"to help determine whether Mars could ever have supported life, "
Didn't we already determine there were microscopic organisms on the surface? Wouldn't that technically be considered life?

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:23 pm

IThinkImMe wrote:Didn't we already determine there were microscopic organisms on the surface?
That has most definitely not been determined. One meteorite has been found that originated from Mars, and which contains structures that look a little bit like fossils of microorganisms sometimes found in Earth rocks. But that interpretation is both ambiguous and controversial. It is also degraded by having had some really poor quality science involved at times.

Objectively, there is no good evidence that life has ever existed on Mars.
Chris

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by IThinkImMe » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:27 pm

Thanks for the clarification. Could have sworn one of the rovers analyzed some on the surface. Guess I was wrong and happy to admit it!

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by BPCooper » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:56 pm

RafaSp wrote:Got a question about launch preparations: I've seen that the rover was cleaned and then enclosed in the reentry shell. This, in turn, was enclosed by the fairing and then, the whole vehicle+fairing, installed on top of the Centaur stage. However here http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mul ... ages/?s=51 you can see that the nuclear power supply was lifted and put on the rover once it was already sitting on top of the launch vehicle. Does that mean that they had to open the fairing, reentry shell and rover just to install it and later, close them again? Also, I understand that they had to clean the inside of the fairing just prior to close it around the vehicle, to prevent contamination of the payload. That was done in a clean facility. What about contamination produced when they opened it again in a much less controled environment such as the launch gantry to put the RTG in place?
There is a door in the side of the payload fairing that they can enter for final closeouts of the spacecraft and installation of the RTG, and a clean facility atop the pad.

In these photos you can see them installing it:

http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail ... iaid=57127
http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail ... iaid=57126
http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail ... iaid=57125
http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail ... iaid=57124

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by IthinkImSumbuddy » Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:26 pm

I had a chuckle at the Wiki link for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Science_Laboratory in the explanation. At the bottom of the page is a photo of Curiosity's tires - they have "JPL" imprinted in the treads in Morse code! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Curio ... e_code.png Dit dit dit Daaahhh!

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:36 pm

IthinkImSumbuddy wrote:I had a chuckle at the Wiki link for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Science_Laboratory in the explanation. At the bottom of the page is a photo of Curiosity's tires - they have "JPL" imprinted in the treads in Morse code! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Curio ... e_code.png Dit dit dit Daaahhh!
You'd be amazed how many little Easter eggs referencing JPL or Caltech culture are printed, stamped, molded, or otherwise present in various spacecraft.
Chris

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JPL WAS HERE

Post by neufer » Wed Nov 30, 2011 6:00 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
IthinkImSumbuddy wrote:
I had a chuckle at the Wiki link for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Science_Laboratory in the explanation. At the bottom of the page is a photo of Curiosity's tires - they have "JPL" imprinted in the treads in Morse code! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Curio ... e_code.png Dit dit dit Daaahhh!
You'd be amazed how many little Easter eggs referencing JPL or Caltech culture are printed, stamped, molded, or otherwise present in various spacecraft.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilroy_was_here wrote: <<Kilroy was here is an American popular culture expression, often seen in graffiti. Its origins are debated, but the phrase and the distinctive accompanying doodle—a bald-headed man (possibly with a few hairs) with a prominent nose peeking over a wall with the fingers of each hand clutching the wall—is widely known among U.S. residents who lived during World War II.

The figure was initially known in Britain as "Mr Chad". Chad would appear with the slogan "Wot, no sugar", or a similar phrase bemoaning shortages and rationing. He often appeared with a single curling hair that resembled a question mark and with crosses in his eyes. The phrase "Wot, no —?" pre-dates "Chad" and was widely used separately from the doodle. Chad was used by the RAF and civilians; in the army Chad was known as Private Snoops, and in the Navy he was called The Watcher. Life Magazine in 1946 said that the RAF and Army were competing for claiming him as their own invention, but they agreed that he had first appeared around 1944. The character resembles Alice the Goon, a character in Popeye who first appeared in 1933; another name for Chad was "The Goon".

"Foo was here" graffiti is said to have been widely used by Australians during World War I: "He was chalked on the side of railway carriages, appeared in probably every camp that the 1st AIF World War I served in and generally made his presence felt." If this is the case, then "Foo was here" pre-dates "Kilroy was here" by about twenty years. The phrase "Foo was here" was used from 1941–45 as the Australian equivalent of "Kilroy was here". "Foo" was thought of as a gremlin by the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II, and the name may have derived from the 1930s cartoon Smokey Stover, in which the character used the word "foo" for anything he could not remember the name of.

The phrase may have originated through United States servicemen, who would draw the doodle and the text "Kilroy was here" on the walls and other places they were stationed, encamped, or visited. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable notes that it was particularly associated with the Air Transport Command, at least when observed in the United Kingdom.
In the 1948 Looney Tunes cartoon Haredevil Hare, whilst commenting on being the first one to walk on the surface of the moon Bugs Bunny is seen walking right past a large slab of moon rock etched with the words "Kilroy was here".

Isaac Asimov's 1955 short story The Message depicts a time-travelling George Kilroy from the thirtieth century as the writer of the graffiti.

An early example of the phrase being used may date from 1937, before World War II. A US History Channel video broadcast in 2007, Fort Knox: Secrets Revealed, includes a shot of a chalked "KILROY WAS HERE" dated 5/13/1937: Fort Knox's vault was loaded in 1937 and inaccessible until the 1970s, when an audit was carried out and the footage was shot.

According to one story, it was reported that German intelligence found the phrase on captured American equipment. This began leading Hitler to believe that Kilroy could be the name or codename of a high-level Allied spy. At the time of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, it was rumored that Stalin found "Kilroy was here" written in the VIP's bathroom, prompting him to ask his aides who Kilroy was. War photographer Robert Capa noted a use of the phrase at Bastogne in December 1944: "On the black, charred walls of an abandoned barn, scrawled in white chalk, was the legend of McAuliffe's GIs: KILROY WAS STUCK HERE.">>
Art Neuendorffer

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by saturn2 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 11:28 pm

Curiosity rover is 5 times the size of Opportunity rover.
I think that Curiosity rover is very big and very heavy.

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by ZenGrouch » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:16 am

I'm curious about the towers surrounding the vehicle, that seem to be connected to each other by cable.
What is their function(s) before and after the launch?

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by BPCooper » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:02 am

ZenGrouch wrote:I'm curious about the towers surrounding the vehicle, that seem to be connected to each other by cable.
What is their function(s) before and after the launch?
This is the lightning protection system. 400 foot towers with fiberglass rods on top and wires between them ensure the rocket does not get struck.

RafaSp

Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by RafaSp » Thu Dec 01, 2011 6:09 pm

[quote="neufer"][quote="RafaSp"]
Neufer: Thank you for your answer. What amazes me is not that they can enter the fairing through a side door; it's that they have to open the aeroshell to install the RTG

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Hot potato!

Post by neufer » Thu Dec 01, 2011 7:35 pm

RafaSp wrote:
What amazes me is not that they can enter the fairing through a side door; it's that they have to open the aeroshell to install the RTG
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DOE_employees_work_at_the_MMRTG.jpg wrote:

<<CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- In the airlock of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Department of Energy employees prepare the support base of the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission for installation of the mesh container, known as the "gorilla cage." The cage, in the background at right, protects the MMRTG during transport and allows any excess heat generated to dissipate into the air. Transport of the MMRTG to the RTG storage facility follows the completion of the MMRTG fit check on the Curiosity rover. The MMRTG will generate the power needed for the mission from the natural decay of plutonium-238, a non-weapons-grade form of the radioisotope. Heat given off by this natural decay will provide constant power through the day and night during all seasons. MSL's components include a car-sized rover, Curiosity, which has 10 science instruments designed to search for signs of life, including methane, and help determine if the gas is from a biological or geological source. Waste heat from the MMRTG will be circulated throughout the rover system to keep instruments, computers, mechanical devices and communications systems within their operating temperature ranges.>>
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Potato_%28game%29 wrote:
<<Hot potato is a party game that involves players gathering in a circle and tossing a small object such as a beanbag or tennis ball to each other while music plays. The player who is holding the "hot potato" when the music stops is out. Play continues until only one player is left. The game is designed to be fast-paced and high-pressure and is often played by children. The game can also be played without music where there is a designated leader who shouts out "hot!" and the player holding the object is eliminated. The origins of the hot potato game are not clear. However, it may go back as far as 1888 when Sidney Addy's Glossary of Sheffield Words describes a game in which a number of people sit in a row, or in chairs round a parlor. In this game, a lighted candle is handed to the first person, who says:
  • Jack's alive, and likely to live
    If he dies in your hand, you've a forfeit to give.
The one in whose hand the light expires has to pay the forfeit.>>
Art Neuendorffer

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by ZenGrouch » Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:04 pm

BPCooper wrote:
ZenGrouch wrote:I'm curious about the towers surrounding the vehicle, that seem to be connected to each other by cable.
What is their function(s) before and after the launch?
This is the lightning protection system. 400 foot towers with fiberglass rods on top and wires between them ensure the rocket does not get struck.
Not as complicated a purpose as I speculated on, but a critical one none the less...

Thanks!

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Re: APOD: Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (2011 Nov 30)

Post by BPCooper » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:59 am

RafaSp wrote:
neufer wrote:
RafaSp wrote: Neufer: Thank you for your answer. What amazes me is not that they can enter the fairing through a side door; it's that they have to open the aeroshell to install the RTG
They didn't have to take it apart, the aeroshell had a door designed for its insertion as well.