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Posted by on Aug 3, 2012 in Science |

6 things you should know about the rover Curiosity and his journey to Mars

6 things you should know about the rover Curiosity and his journey to Mars

(Cc) NASA

On Monday morning, the Curiosity initiate a complex process to enter the Martian atmosphere and land on the surface without damage. It is the largest robot is sent to our neighboring planet, and one of its missions is to collect information for a possible manned mission to in the future.

How Curiosity? What will face on Mars? These are some of the questions we will try to answer in this post, as we await the arrival transfer to the red planet.

Landing

Is by far the most complex part of the operation, and we’re all waiting for Monday. In seven minutes, determine if the journey that began in November last year will succeed, or die in the attempt Curiosity.

The Martian atmosphere is dense and interferes with the use of rockets to slow the entry of the ship, but at the same time is too weak to allow the parachute to function optimally. On previous occasions had been used airbags to cushion the blow of the robots to reach the surface, but the Curiosity is too large (the size of a Mini Cooper) to try this.

The rover used instead a fairly complex system to perform the maneuver, which includes the use of a “Sky Crane” and requires that several systems are activated in the correct order with high accuracy, in just seven minutes. The way it should work can be seen in this video from NASA.

Where will arrive and what to do Curiosity?

6 things you should know about the rover Curiosity and his journey to Mars image 2

If all goes well, Curiosity will be deposited in the Aeolis region in the crater Gale Palus Mars. Is expected to explore for a Martian year (687 Earth days) an area between 5 and 20 kilometers. If we take as example the case of Spirit and Opportunity – whose mission would last 90 days and lengthened at the end for years – is expected to be extended.

Curiosity task will determine the possibilities to carry humans to Mars in the future, studying the climate, geology and other factors used to determine its habitability. Also, consider whether Mars could have had life in the past.

What is the rover Curiosity?

6 things you should know about the rover Curiosity and his journey to Mars image 3

Curiosity is the largest robot sent to Mars, 3 meters long and 900 kg. It is much larger than the twin Spirit and Opportunity, which measure 1.5 meters and weigh just 174 kilos. To get to Mars, the rover is traveling with a spaceship. Overall, both weigh 3893 kilos, due to the descent and landing systems special bearing.

Curiosity has six wheels, and once on the surface can travel at an estimated speed of 90 meters per hour using automatic navigation. Not very fast, but it is not a race car. It is believed that the average travel to about 30 meters per hour, depending on energy levels, the difficult terrain and visibility.

For energy, the robot uses a radioisotope thermoelectric generator that produces electricity from radioactive decay of an isotope of plutonium-238. This gives you constant energy day and night.

Curiosity Generator is designed to produce 125 watts of power from about 2000 watts of heat energy at the start of the mission. It is expected that after 14 years of generation down to 100 watts by the decay of the isotope.

On board, the Curiosity has two identical computers called “Rover Compute Element” (RCE). The memories of these teams are specially protected against radiation. Each computer includes 256 KB of EEPROM, 256 MB of DRAM and 2 GB of flash memory. It may sound modest to some, but is much more than they have the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, with 3 MB of EEPROM, 128 MB of DRAM and 256 KB of flash memory.

Computers use a RAD750 CPU capable of 400 MIPS. One of the two teams is set to support and act in case of problems with the main equipment.

Hello, Earth?

To communicate, Curiosity uses two systems. One is an X-band transmitter that can communicate directly with Earth, and the other is an Electra-Lite UHF radio used to communicate with the rover probes orbiting the Red Planet. It is expected that the main communication channel with the Earth is made via the Mars Odyssey, which has better antennas and is capable of transmitting messages immediately to our planet.

The transmission of information takes 13:46 minutes to reach Earth. Here, the charge of receiving the messages will be three huge antennas (one 70 meter and two 34-meter) located in Canberra, Australia. Can receive direct communications and which are sent via Odyssey.

Laboratory and instruments

6 things you should know about the rover Curiosity and his journey to Mars image 4

Curiosity has 17 cameras on board. Three of the main ones MastCam, MAHLI and MARDI. The first is composed of two small chambers. Shoots colors of 1600 X 1200 pixels and can capture video of 10 frames per second at 720p. The two chambers are MastCam 8 GB flash memory that can store 5,000 images, and are able to compress files to JPEG.

MAHLI is installed on a robotic arm and used to take microscopic photos of rocks and soil. MAHLI can shoot 1600 X 1200 pixels with a resolution of 14.5 microns per pixel. Includes white and ultraviolet light to take pictures in low light or fluorescence.

Meanwhile, MARDI has a circular field of view 90° and allowed to take color photos very quickly. It is designed to take pictures of the ground to make maps, and will be especially important for the landing of the Rover, which must figure out how to touch the surface better.

A remarkable experiment is the ChemCam, allowing the rover to fire a laser from 9 feet away and analyze the composition of the product to evaporate laser shot, using spectroscopy. This allows you to study rocks that can not reach with its robotic arm. It also can determine from a distance whether it is worth sending the rover in one direction or another.

Board also includes a number of tools for analysis of materials found on Mars. A key is SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars), which allows testing on samples that are collected. There are also including spectrometers, systems to analyze the atmosphere, radiation detector, a system to monitor weather, and navigation cameras that can capture 3D images.

How do I transfer?

officials will begin broadcasting on Monday, August 6. As there is a delay of 14 minutes you get the information from Mars, we will learn to really lag if the rover survived its landing complex or not.

here are a number of ways to follow the news:

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