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NASA Mars Rover Begins Driving At Bradbury Landing

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Curiosity’s First Track Marks on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced today they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury.

Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity’s drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago.

Curiosity will spend several more days of working beside Bradbury Landing, performing instrument checks and studying the surroundings, before embarking toward its first driving destination approximately 1,300 feet (400 meters) to the east-southeast.

“Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers. The testing and characterization activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with appropriate care,” said Curiosity Project Manager Pete Theisinger of JPL. “Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress.”

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University Of Iowa Instruments Aboard Twin NASA Spacecraft Set For Launch Aug. 24

August 22, 2012 1 comment

On Aug. 24, NASA will launch two identical satellites from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to begin its Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission to study the extremes of space weather and help scientists improve space weather forecasts.

Why should you care?

Because, says a University of Iowa space physics researcher, if you’ve ever used a cell phone, traveled by plane, or stayed up late to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, then you have been affected by space weather without even knowing about it.

Full Story: http://now.uiowa.edu/2012/08/ui-instruments-aboard-twin-nasa-spacecraft-set-launch-aug-24

NASA’s Curiosity Studies Mars Surroundings, Nears Drive

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has been investigating the Martian weather around it and the soil beneath it, as its controllers prepare for the car-size vehicle’s first drive on Mars.

The rover’s weather station, provided by Spain, checks air temperature, ground temperature, air pressure, wind and other variables every hour at the landing site in Gale Crater. On a typical Martian day, or “sol,” based on measurements so far in the two-week old mission, air temperatures swing from 28 degrees to minus 103 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 to minus 75 Celsius). Ground temperatures change even more between afternoon and pre-dawn morning, from 37 degrees to minus 132 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to minus 91 Celsius).

An instrument provided by Russia is checking for water bound into minerals in the top three feet (one meter) of soil beneath the rover. It employs a technology that is used in oil prospecting on Earth, but had never before been sent to another planet.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-254#2

First Words Of Safe Landing On Mars – Tango Delta Nominal

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment

10:32 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 5 was turning out to be one long minute for Steve Sell. Of course, the previous six had been significantly protracted as well. When added together, the entry, descent and landing of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover had been touted as “Seven Minutes of Terror,” and as far as Sell was concerned things were trending in that direction. What the 42-year-old engineer from Gettysburg, Pa., wanted more than anything in that seventh minute was to hear the words “UHF Strong.”

There had been a debate amongst Curiosity’s entry, descent and landing team about what their first words to indicate that the rover had reached the surface should be. The EDL team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory knew their microphones would be “hot” and that NASA TV was beaming the landing event out live to anybody with the desire and wherewithal to watch. They also knew that landing safely on Mars meant more than simply landing on Mars – which any one of the 34 engineers present at JPL’s Building 264 Room 230, also known as the “EDL War Room,” will tell you at great length is not simple at all.

What if the descent stage kept descending right on top of the rover? What if the bridles connecting the two did not separate? What if the algorithm used to throttle up the engines for the flyaway maneuver was not accurate? It was the remaining “what ifs” that made what those first words from Mars confirming the rover was on the surface so important.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-253