NASA rover begins quest to explore Mars
Robotic rover Curiosity is on long journey to the Red Planet; ETA is August 2012
Computerworld - NASA's $2.5 billion robotic rover Curiosity has begun its long journey to Mars on a mission that the space agency hopes will further its understanding of life in the universe.
The Mars Science Laboratory lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday aboard an Atlas V rocket. Less than an hour after launch, the rover sent back a signal to NASA, reporting that it had successfully separated from the rocket and was flying free on its way to the Red Planet.
Curiosity was launched with the mission of discovering whether life exists, or has ever existed, on Mars. It will join the rover Opportunity, which has been working on the planet for more than six years, and will work in preparation for sending humans there.
The new super rover will collect soil and rock samples and analyze them for evidence that the area has, or ever had, environmental conditions favorable to microbial life.
"We are ready to go for landing on the surface of Mars, and we couldn't be happier," said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. "I think this mission will be a great one. It is an important next step in NASA's overall goal to address the issue of life in the universe."
Curiosity, which is the size of an SUV and equipped with 10 science instruments, is expected to land on Mars in August 2012.
"Science fiction is now science fact," said Doug McCuisition, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. "We're flying to Mars. We'll get it on the ground ... and see what we find."
According to NASA, Curiosity has the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars' surface, including chemistry instruments, environmental sensors and radiation monitors. The payload is more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers.
Curiosity weighs 1 ton and is twice as long and five times heavier than its predecessors. The extra instruments and mobility should be a big help to NASA, which has been down one Mars robot since the rover Spirit, a robotic twin to Opportunity, stopped functioning earlier this year.
NASA has long said that robots will play a critical role in its plans to create a human outpost on Mars or the moon. Robots designed to erect buildings and prepare safe landing sites are expected to arrive before humans. Once the astronauts arrive, the robots are expected to carry payloads and serve as transport vehicles.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Read more about Emerging Technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.
- Three Best Practices to Help Enterprises Overcome BYOD Challenges The new Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment presents challenges for IT managers and business leaders. This paper discusses how IT managers can address those challenges,...
- Intelligent Imaging for Improved Banking Performance and Profitability A new generation of "Intelligent Imaging" solutions has emerged that is helping banks remove the burden of paper in legacy processes, like loan...
- Shifting Gears: The Value of Customer-Driven Quality in Manufacturing In today's competitive manufacturing market, the customer must be the center of the quality universe. This paper details how manufacturers can improve customer...
- Aberdeen Group: Marketing Analytics for Manufacturing: Forging Customer Insights There are no recalls for poor marketing. Manufacturers need to get their customer intelligence and messaging right the first time. Learn how.
- IBM FlashSystem V840: Leveraging Software-Defined Flash to Drive Your Business With end-to-end, tightly integrated functionality and super-fast flash technology, products like IBM FlashSystem V840 Enterprise Performance Solution empower businesses to leverage the efficiency...
- Leveraging Flash Storage to Accelerate Oracle Real Application Clusters Join this webinar to understand the latest solid-state storage trends, the specific applications driving solid-state storage deployments and the benefits of deploying the... All Emerging Technologies White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!