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NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Installing Smarts For Driving

August 10, 2012 1 comment

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity will spend its first weekend on Mars transitioning to software better suited for tasks ahead, such as driving and using its strong robotic arm.

The rover’s “brain transplant,” which will occur during a series of steps Aug. 10 through Aug. 13, will install a new version of software on both of the rover’s redundant main computers. This software for Mars surface operations was uploaded to the rover’s memory during the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft’s flight from Earth.

“We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission,” said Ben Cichy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. “The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don’t need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-238#1

UCLA Scientist Discovers Plate Tectonics On Mars

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet’s surface, also exists on Mars.

“Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth,” said An Yin, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and the sole author of the new research.

“When I studied the satellite images from Mars, many of the features looked very much like fault systems I have seen in the Himalayas and Tibet, and in California as well, including the geomorphology,” said Yin, a planetary geologist.

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NASA Sets Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission Launch Events Coverage

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) are set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket Aug. 23. The 20-minute launch window for the twin probes at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 begins at 4:08 a.m. EDT.

Launch commentary coverage, as well as prelaunch media briefings, will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

RBSP will explore space weather — changes in Earth’s space environment caused by the sun — that can disable satellites, create power grid failures and disrupt GPS service. The mission also will allow researchers to understand fundamental radiation and particle acceleration processes throughout the universe.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/aug/HQ_M12-148_RBSP_ATLAS_V_Launch_Coverage.html