How They Work: “The Mars Curiosity Rover”

IT has been in the news (no secret), man has been able to send a space craft to Mars, that device is known as “Curiosity”. 

IT has been in the news (no secret), man has been able to send a space craft to Mars, that device is known as “Curiosity”.  The breakthrough occurred this August; With its six-wheel drive, rocker-bogie suspension system and mast-mounted cameras, it might resemble its venerable predecessors, but only in the way a pickup truck resembles a Humvee.

This is a nuclear-powered, laser-toting monster truck of science, complete with rocket pack a steal that stands at a staggering US$2.5 billion.  The Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity, dominates the Mars rover showroom, stretching twice as long (about 3 meters) and built five times as heavy (899 kilograms) as NASA’s record-setting 2003 models, Spirit and Opportunity. It comes off-off-road ready, with no hubs to lock (and no one to lock them). Six 20-inch (51-centimeter) aluminum wheels tear over obstacles approaching 30 inches (75 centimeters) high and rack up 660 feet (200 meters) per day on Martian terrain.
 
The 2011 Curiosity packs more gadgets than a Ronco warehouse everything from gear for collecting soil and powdered samples of rock, to sieves for prepping and sorting them, to onboard instruments for analyzing them. Curiosity’s laser is a tunable spectrometer designed to identify organic (carbon-containing) compounds and determine the isotope ratios of key elements. Best of all, its tried-and-true nuclear power system, long used in satellites, spacecraft and lunar equipment flown aboard the Apollo missions, is guaranteed not to leave you stranded in a dust storm.
 
Yes indeed, NASA went back to the drawing board for this one, dreaming up a fractal-like arrangement to pack the finest selection of compact scientific accoutrements into the smallest space possible. But don’t take it for granted, this is by far, the most complex thing ever built for this purpose.  No effort was spared for NASA’s most ambitious rover to date. This workhorse will conduct more onboard scientific research, using a larger suite of laboratory instruments and sensors, than any previous Martian model. Order today, and NASA will deliver it to within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of your door (some limitations apply; door must be within 402-million-kilometer delivery area). Your rover will land with more precision and cover more rugged ground than any other, and it will have the best chance so far of capturing the history of water flow and the possibility of ancient habitable environments on Mars. Curiosity would no doubt garner Rover of the Year.
 
From Blueprint to reality, Years of testing, development and building-in fault tolerances culminated at 10:02 a.m. EST on Nov. 26, 2011, when the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket. It landed successfully on Mars at 1:32 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6, 2012.  Before loading Curiosity into its shell, engineers subjected the rover to a rigorous series of tests simulating both internal faults and external problems, punishments that included centrifuges, drop tests, pull tests, drive tests, load tests, stress tests and tests of shorting circuits.  Meanwhile, NASA had to decide where the new rover would explore, how it would get there and how the space agency could land it safely -- easier said than done.  Earth and Mars revolve around the sun at different rates  686.98 Earth days for Mars versus 365.26 for Earth   which means their relative distance varies enormously. Reaching Mars on as little fuel as possible meant launching when the red planet passes closest
to us. This was no minor consideration: Mars swings out more than seven times as far from Earth at its farthest extreme (401.3 million kilometers) than at its nearest approach (55.7 million kilometres).

To be continued...

 

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