07-06-12, 08:02 PM #1
With NASA's Opportunity still working away after 3,000 sols on mars, the next Red Planet Adventure looms nigh:
Evidence of ancient life on Mars, if any such evidence exists, might be detectable at shallower depths below the planet's surface than has been thought, a new study says – which would improve the chances that NASA's newest Mars rover, scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet next month, finds it.
The research indicates that simple organic molecules, such as a single molecule of formaldehyde, could exist a mere 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) beneath the Martian surface. While the radiation level at these depths is still intense, simple building blocks of life (and, in the case of young craters, perhaps even complex building blocks) could survive, the researchers said.
The study, which suggests ideal locations and depths to search for organic molecules, could act as a road map for the Curiosity rover, which is due to land on Mars the night of Aug. 5.
(Space.com/Christian Science Monitor)
One can follow Curiosity's progress at @MarsCuriosity.
Congratulations, Oppy. Good luck, Curiosity.
Space.com. "Evidence for ancient life on Mars could be just below surface, new study finds". The Christian Science Monitor. July 6, 2012. CSMonitor.com. July 6, 2012. http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/201...dy-finds-video
07-06-12, 08:22 PM #2
sounds like mockery of NASA, not a praise. Take a look at Puget Sound and its investments into space ... most of them are failures like Andrews Space (of which was written with praise). The only thing still going good are Boeing Space custom latch rings for the rocket separation mechanism. Opportunity is a clear example of a great work by NASA and that is with the extremely lacking budget NASA has to put up with right after the Orion program setbacks.
07-06-12, 08:24 PM #3While the radiation level at these depths is still intense,
07-06-12, 08:28 PM #4
07-06-12, 08:55 PM #5
The obvious questionOriginally Posted by YourEyes
07-06-12, 09:01 PM #6
I would rename the first choice with a focus on Mars missions primarily and congratulate NASA rather than state a problem with NASA. "First Pathfinder, Now Opportunity? What Will Curiosity Find? NASA can do even more with better funding!" I guess I feel like you are saying that NASA was not funded properly prior and thus its past missions you listed were not as spectacular. It is like two opposites of the coin in one sentence, it does not feel right sort of feeling.
07-06-12, 10:45 PM #7
A "Corrective" RantOriginally Posted by YourEyes
I would hate for anyone to mistake my point: Voyager is, in my mind, NASA's most successful venture insofar as the damn things are still checking in, and about to cross the frontier into the utterly unknown.
Opportunity is a success beyond even its designers' wildest dreams. Three thousand sols? What was it, a ninety-day mission, originally?
First Voyager: What human endeavor has so exceeded its expectations?
Then Opportunity: I mean, sure, it's a long way to go to thirty years, and such, but just imagine what NASA could do with proper funding. That little droid is astounding.
Well, okay, I don't need to tell you to imagine, but for some reason, when we face financial spectres measured in the trillions of dollars, one might wonder why NASA is such a popular whipping boy when, oh, say, a war in Iraq was apparently inviolable.
What is the cost up to for Iraq?
Shit. What if we had spent a trillion on NASA instead? And the rest on education in general?
What if we had been in and out of Afghanistan in a reasonable time, instead of opening with three thousand at the outset, and merely thirty thousand after seven years? Nobody invades the Hindu Kush and wins. Period. History says. Yet, we tried. Or, rather, we didn't. Bush didn't want to win. He wanted to waste money making warmongers rich.
Without Iraq, and having conducted the Afghanistan war properly from the outset, what sort of numbers would we be arguing about today, in terms of debt and deficit?
If it was worth that much money to Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to kill a bunch of brown-skinned people in the Islamic world, what is the future of the human species worth?
Look at what the Voyagers are still doing. Look at what dear Oppy has accomplished.
Yeah. NASA was and is fully capable of learning from its Martian debacle in the nineties. Look at what they've done. Now turn them loose with the lessons of yesterday, and see what they can bring us for tomorrow.
Hell, if we're going to blow trillions of dollars on risky ventures, we might as well do so for a good reason, and do so responsibly.
Give NASA what it needs to do its job. Cultivate the next generation of astronomical geniuses.
We went to Luna. Voyager is ours. Opportunity is ours. For Heaven's sake, we ought to be proud of these American accomplishments. And they're a far better result than we won in Iraq. And a far better result than George W. Bush ever intended in Afghanistan.
And in a little under a month, Curiosity begins its adventure in earnest. That wonderful droid is very much within reach of changing the entire human paradigm.
I recognize that by comparison, you are recent to our community. I hope this little rant of mine clarifies well enough.
Two and half billion spent over eight years? Actually, given the stakes, that's not a bad number at all. In fact, I like it. I like it very much.
Yeah, we can wrap a one-ton robot inside a two-ton package and sling it some two hundred million kilometers and land it where we want. Brilliant effing-A.
Or, hell, Dawn. Okay, we're going to shoot a metal box at a bunch of rocks in the middle of nowhere, drop into orbit around one of them, do what we do, and then kick off and drop into orbit around another. Dude ... the Pentagon merely wishes it could be that awesome.
We've spent over a thousand times more on ill-managed endeavors to kill a bunch of people in Afghanistan and Iraq than we did to send Curiosity to answer one of the most important questions in the Universe.
Bloody'ell, you know? Give even one percent of that to NASA, instead, and just watch what they can do. It's almost scary.
And it's almost enough to make me wish I didn't loathe mathematics so much. Er ... um ... never mind. Jesuit school. Long story.
07-20-12, 11:38 PM #8
MSL: OK Computer
MSL: OK Computer
Curiosity is almost ready.
Go, go Curiosity Rover.
I would be remiss if I didn't at least include JPL's Mars Science Laboratory homepage.
This is going to be so damn cool.
And you absolutely must take some time to play with the JPL Solar System Simulator.
Yeah, I know. It's not a dramatic picture. But, according to JPL, it's approximately the view from where the MSL was just a few minutes ago.
No, really. Absolutely awesome.
07-21-12, 01:05 AM #9
I hope it doesn't crash
07-21-12, 01:13 AM #10
07-21-12, 08:03 AM #11
On January 26th 2010, 2156 Mars days into the mission, NASA declared Spirit a ‘stationary research station’.
The scheduled downlink from Spirit on Sol 2218 (March 30, 2010), was not received, and Spirit has been silent since.
http://xkcd.com/695/, by Randall Munroe
Last edited by Pete; 07-21-12 at 08:35 AM.
07-21-12, 08:03 PM #12
omg...i want to cry about the poor spirit bot. "...guys?" ...
"They left you Bobby, they left you all on your own, out there, alone..."
07-22-12, 03:26 PM #13
Thank you, SpiritOriginally Posted by Pete
• • •
Originally Posted by YourEyes
I still do, whenever I read John Callas' letter to the staff:
Last night, just after midnight, the last recovery command was sent to Spirit. It would be an understatement to say that this was a significant moment. Since the last communication from Spirit on March 22, 2010 (Sol 2210), as she entered her fourth Martian winter, nothing has been heard from her. There is a continued silence from the Gusev site on Mars.
We must remember that we are at this point because we did what we said we would do, to wear the rovers out exploring. For Spirit, we have done that, and then some.
Spirit was designed as a 3-month mission with a kilometer of traverse capability. The rover lasted over 6 years and drove over 7.7 kilometers [4.8 miles] and returned over 124,000 images. Importantly, it is not how long the rover lasted, but how much exploration and discovery Spirit has done.
This is a rover that faced continuous challenges and had to fight for every discovery. Nothing came easy for Spirit. When she landed, she had the Sol 18 flash memory anomaly that threatened her survival. Scientifically, Mars threw a curveball. What was to be a site for lakebed sediments at Gusev, turned out to be a plain of volcanic material as far as the rover eye could see. So Spirit dashed across the plains in an attempt to reach the distant Columbia Hills, believed to be more ancient than the plains.
Exceeding her prime mission duration and odometry, Spirit scrambled up the Columbia Hills, performing Martian mountaineering, something she was never designed to do. There Spirit found her first evidence of water-altered rocks, and later, carbonates.
The environment for Spirit was always harsher than for Opportunity. The winters are deeper and darker. And Gusev is much dustier than Meridiani. Spirit had an ever-increasing accumulation of dust on her arrays. Each winter became harder than the last.
It was after her second Earth year on Mars when Spirit descended down the other side of the Columbia Hills that she experienced the first major failure of the mission, her right-front wheel failed. Spirit had to re-learn to drive with just five wheels, driving mostly backwards dragging her failed wheel. It is out of this failure that Spirit made one of the most significant discoveries of the mission. Out of lemons, Spirit made lemonade.
Each winter was hard for Spirit. But with ever-accumulating dust and the failed wheel that limited the maximum achievable slope, Spirit had no options for surviving the looming fourth winter. So we made a hard push toward some high-value science to the south. But the first path there, up onto Home Plate, was not passable. So we went for Plan B, around to the northeast of Home Plate. That too was not passable and the clock was ticking. We were left with our last choice, the longest and most risky, to head around Home Plate to the west.
It was along this path that Spirit, with her degraded 5-wheel driving, broke through an unseen hazard and became embedded in unconsolidated fine material that trapped the rover. Even this unfortunate event turned into another exciting scientific discovery. We conducted a very ambitious extrication effort, but the extrication on Mars ran out of time with the fourth winter and was further complicated by another wheel failure.
With no favorable tilt and more dust on the arrays, Spirit likely ran out of energy and succumbed to the cold temperatures during the fourth winter. There was a plausible expectation that the rover might survive the cold and wake up in the spring, but a lack of response from the rover after more than 1,200 recovery commands were sent to rouse her indicates that Spirit will sleep forever.
But let's remember the adventure we have had. Spirit has climbed mountains, survived rover-killing dust storms, rode out three cold, dark winters and made some of the most spectacular discoveries on Mars. She has told us that Mars was once like Earth. There was water and hot springs, the conditions that could have supported life. She has given us a foundation to further explore the Red Planet and to understand ourselves and our place in the universe.
But in addition to all the scientific discoveries Spirit has given us in her long, productive rover life, she has also given us a great intangible. Mars is no longer a strange, distant and unknown place. Mars is now our neighborhood. And we all go to work on Mars every day. Thank you, Spirit. Well done, little rover.
And to all of you, well done, too.
Callas, John. "A Heartfelt Goodbye to a Spirited Mars Rover". JPL Blog. May 25, 2011. Blogs.JPL.NASA.gov. July 22, 2012. http://blogs.jpl.nasa.gov/2011/05/a-...ed-mars-rover/
07-31-12, 05:40 PM #14
The Greatest Show On ... Earth?
The Greatest Show On ... Earth?
While the world watches the 2012 Summer Games in London, the Greatest Show On Earth will actually not be on Earth. Rather, it will be on Mars. And it will be approximately twenty minutes long, with a climax growing over the final third.
The performance is slated for August 6, at 05:31 UTC (01:31 EDT; 22:31 Aug. 5, PDT). Around the world, millions of people from different countries will spend approximately seven minutes sweating, hoping, and praying. NASA's Curiosity rover is scheduled to land at that time, which begins a period customarily dubbed, "Seven Minutes of Terror".
At the end, champagne will flow, or else tears. At two and a half billion dollars, the MSL Curiosity mission is a heavy price tag on which entire paradigms might precariously perch. There is a chance that the one-ton rover will, in coming months, assert the definitive presence of life in Martian history.
But first come those seven minutes.
The underlying issue is that from entry to touchdown, the landing process will take seven minutes; there is a fourteen-minute delay in communications. During the landing process, mission control will be blacked out from its own spacecraft as the onboard computers land the vehicle. "When we first get word that we've touched the top of the atmosphere," explains EDL (Entry, Descent, and Landing) engineer Adam Steltzner, "the vehicle has been alive, or dead, on the surface for at least seven minutes."
Adding to the tension is the proposition that, while NASA has an affinity for doing crazy things, like shooting metal boxes at comets and actually hitting their targets, the MSL landing sequence is arguably the craziest they have attempted since sealing human beings in a metal capsule and chucking them at the moon.
The atmosphere on Mars is significant to require precise engineering to protect against heat, but not so substantial as to be effective as a brake. The plan, as such, is intricate, and very nearly insane.
Curiosity will enter the Martian atmosphere in its protective capsule at over 13,000 mph. With temperatures reaching over 1,600° F, the capsule can only slow to about 1,000 mph. At this point, the capsule will deploy a parachute, delivering a 9G shock to the entire vessel. Immediately after, the heat shield must be blown off the capsule in order to complete the landing process; the slightest miscalculation could be fatal to the entire mission. The parachute will only be able to slow the descent to approximately 200 mph, still a devastating impact velocity. Thus, a lander must be deployed from the capsule, which must in turn fire rockets that both brake the downward velocity and move the lander horizontally in order to avoid the descending capsule shell. The lander then must stabilize and begin a perfectly vertical descent. The rockets, however, cannot get close enough to the Martian surface without kicking up enough dust to potentially cripple the rover. At twenty metres—just under seventy feet—above the surface, the lander must achieve a zero-descent, horizontally stable hover, and then begin lowering the rover as a skycrane, winching Curiosity gently to the ground. The cables must clear, the rockets fire again, and the skycrane lander will simply crash some reasonable distance away from the rover.
At the end of which, NASA must wait fourteen minutes to hear whether their two and a half billion dollar endeavor is successful.
Strangely—or perhaps not—confidence is high. It is not a matter of believing that nothing can go wrong. Rather, they would not have launched the mission if they did not believe they had everything right. Catastrophic variation is their primary concern; as long as the materials are good, they think they've cut, calculated, programmed, and assembled everything correctly.
It is not the Greatest Show on Earth because it takes place on Mars. But it's the Greatest Show Anywhere on Sunday night and Monday morning; so big that they need two planets to accommodate the performance.
And around the world, there will be potentially millions of people, disparate of nation and culture, who will join in the ritual of those seven minutes of terror. And they will have those moments in common, joined in hope, bound in fear, and watching, together, as the human species attempts to open a new chapter in its search for truth and meaning.
Do the job, Curiosity. The earthbound await in fevers of hope.
JPL News. Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror. June 22, 2012. YouTube.com. July 31, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_Af_o9Q9s
08-05-12, 09:38 PM #15
08-05-12, 10:32 PM #16
what worries me is how widely publicised this mission is. And what happens if this mission fails? NASA looses credibility big time...kind of a really big risk to take. With Apollo the risk was mitigated by the race of America vs. Soviet Union, in this case thou...
08-05-12, 10:55 PM #17
“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what the hell am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!”
...And then it was over.
Somehow that was the best response that came to mind.
08-05-12, 11:33 PM #18Originally Posted by Curiosity on Twitter
08-05-12, 11:48 PM #19
08-05-12, 11:48 PM #20
all this dramatism is unnacceptable in world of engineering, hopefully JPL will keep their cool and focus on the telemetry instead of the televized dramatics.
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