R/€ = 15.30Change: -0.05
R/$ = 14.47Change: -0.08
Au 1065.09 $/ozChange: 7.21
Pt 830.50 $/ozChange: -5.00
Note: Search is limited to the most recent 250 articles. Set date range to access earlier articles.
Where? With... When?

And must exclude these words...
Close Main Search
Close Main Login
My Profile News Alerts Newsletters Logout Close Main Profile
Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science and Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Tenders Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Letters About Us
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
Aug 24, 2012

Latest Mars landing part of mankind pushing the frontiers

Construction|Africa|PROJECT|Road|System|Technology|Africa|America|South Africa|Centre Of Gale Crater|Gale Crater|George W Bush|Mike Watkins|Vasco Da Gama|Cables|Scientific Protocol
© Reuse this

Aspectacular achievement has been the landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. I have followed every move of the project since long before it was even launched. This is exciting.

Curiosity is the most complex interplanetary rover ever designed, and it travelled 566-million kilometres before reaching its destination in the Gale Crater. The mission’s destination is a mountain at the centre of Gale Crater called Mount Sharp. The geologists have figured out that the mountain should have exposed layers of rock from various past ages, and so it should be a good place to examine Martian history. There are geological signs that Mars was a warmer and wetter place once upon a time. One of the mission’s goals is to figure out how Mars transformed. Perhaps, we will even find signs of life.

When Curiosity landed, many people around the world watched it on TV and were swept up in the excitement. They are now waiting for the fun pictures to arrive. However, it must be borne in mind that this is a serious scientific expedition that is conducted by scientific rules. The rover will not make its first drive or move its robotic arm for weeks – the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) will first run a long series of checks and procedures to make sure that all is well after the long journey.

The landing was really complex. Mars has a very thin atmosphere – not enough for earthlike parachutes to work, but enough to damage the spacecraft if it went too fast. So, as it came into the Martian atmosphere, a parachute was used to provide some braking; then it was cut loose. A rocket- powered spacecraft then lowered Curiosity on long cables like a construction site crane. At the last moment, the cables were cut and the descending spacecraft shot away and crashed some distance away.

There are a huge number of things that could have gone wrong, so it was quite reasonable for everyone concerned, as well as the public, to wait nervously to see if the complex operation would work. A few days into the mission, Mike Watkins, the mission manager, said the rover was, basically, continuing to behave flawlessly.

Just after Curiosity had landed, an excited team from Nasa made the announcement that all had gone according to plan. I watched with interest. It was a pity that the Nasa spokesperson said that America had again shown its dominance, with quite the gusto that he did. There have been many countries involved along the road to where the project is now. South Africa played a part in the launch too, so the Curiosity team should rather play to the international involvement, as was stated by former President George W Bush.

Some people have told me that they are disappointed with the first images that have been sent back. One of the first was an uninteresting black-and-white image showing one wheel of Curiosity and some ground. Folks, be patient; the good stuff is yet to come. The spacecraft is following a scientific protocol. The picture of the wheel is to get a quick answer regarding the type of surface Curiosity has landed on. It could have landed in a metre-deep bowl of fine dust and could have been sinking into the ground. They might have had to take urgent action to do something about that. The rover also took quick black-and-white pictures all around so that the scientific team could rapidly get an idea of what the surrounding area looked like, for planning purposes.

They will now carefully go through all sorts of system checks – believe me, there is a long list – before they instruct the rover to move. When they move, they will do so carefully. After all the effort that has been expended to get this far, the team is not going to rush anything now.

Why go to Mars, you may ask. No doubt, people asked Christopher Columbus why he wanted to go west across a large ocean to nothing. People must have asked Vasco Da Gama why he wanted to go south down the coast of Africa. They went because of dreams. They found new lands, and new sea routes. The seafarers of old did not know if there was anything over the horizon. There were even beliefs that, over the horizon, there were dragons and death. At least, when Curiosity started its mission, we knew that Mars was there.

I am sure that, one day, not too far away, there will be bases on Mars and people will stay there for periods, just as they do now in the Antarctic. We do not know what they may find but it is the nature of mankind to explore.

Missions such as this also demand leading- edge technology, and smart folks get to use it and to think about it. This tends to lead to general advances for mankind. Many items that the public use everyday, such as computers, cellphones, the global positioning system and much more, owe their existence to leading-edge scientific missions that pushed the frontiers for mankind.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
The Paris twenty-first Conference of the Parties, or COP 2, is getting nearer.  More and more people are hoping for ‘success’ at the conference.  By this they mean that an international agreement will be signed, limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Such an...
I read an article about the Communications Workers Union (CWU) threatening to strike yet again.  A court subsequently issued an interdict against any wild-cat strike action. The CWU Gauteng chairperson, Velaphi Zulu, then stated that the union had no intention of...
I am writing this column sitting in the airport just outside Hanoi, in Vietnam. I was invited by the Vietnamese nuclear authority to attend a seminar and give a presentation on the development of a Vietnamese nuclear power infrastructure. There were two foreign...
Latest News
Updated 5 hours ago The tide has turned for South African ports and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is pressing ahead with its investment under Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy (MDS) notwithstanding poor economic growth. TNPA CEO Richard Vallihu told a TPA...
Updated 5 hours ago A 7 500 m2 rooftop solar system has been installed on several buildings at the V&A Waterfront, in Cape Town. The powering of several buildings on the iconic property will result in an estimated 1 640 000 kWh/y of clean energy. So far, 900 kW have been successfully...
Updated 5 hours ago The 865 km gas pipeline from the central processing facility (CPF) in Temane, Mozambique, to Secunda, South Africa, is to undergo a further $210-million expansion, the Republic of Mozambique Pipeline Investments Company (Rompco) confirmed on Monday. Rompco is a joint...
Recent Research Reports
Water 2015: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2015 Report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context but also in the African and global context in terms of supply and demand, water stress and insecurity, and access to water and sanitation, besides others.
Input Sector Review: Pumps 2015 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2015 Input Sector Review on Pumps provides an overview of South Africa’s pumps industry with particular focus on pump manufacture and supply, aftermarket services, marketing strategies, local and export demand, imports, sector support, investment...
Liquid Fuels 2015: A review of South Africa's liquid fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2015 Report examines these issues in the context of South Africa’s business environment; oil and gas exploration; fuel pricing; the development of the country’s biofuels industry; the logistics of transporting liquid fuels; and...
Road and Rail 2015: A review of South Africa's road and rail sectors (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2015 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail infrastructure and network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and...
Defence 2015: A review of South Africa's defence sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Coal 2015 report examines South Africa’s coal industry with regards to the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local demand, export sales and coal logistics, projects being undertaken by the large and smaller participants in the...
Real Economy Year Book 2015 (PDF Report)
There are very few beacons of hope on South Africa’s economic horizon. Economic growth is weak, unemployment is rising, electricity supply is insufficient to meet demand and/or spur growth, with poor prospects for many of the commodities mined and exported. However,...
This Week's Magazine
The BMW Group will invest R6-billion at BMW Group South Africa’s (BMW SA’s) Rosslyn plant to produce the next-generation X3 sports-activity vehicle (SAV) for the local and export markets. Rosslyn will continue production of the current 3 Series through its lifecycle,...
The lack of consequences for poor performance and transgressions on the part of contractors remains a significant hurdle to tackling South Africa’s service delivery challenges, delegates heard at the Consulting Engineers South Africa Infrastructure Indaba, on...
City of Ekurhuleni executive mayor Mondli Gungubele earlier this month officially named the city’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Harambee.
NICK CHRISTODOULOU As about 58% of data stored by organisations is dark, they must identify this dark data to expose risks and valuable information
About 58% of unstructured data stored by companies is dark data, which means that the value or regulatory importance of the data has not been determined. Subsequently, most of the stored data add costs, rather than increasing revenue or reduce regulatory risks, says...
BRIAN VERWEY Effective management, review and administration of non-core elements can improve business operations and increase revenue and decrease unforeseen risks
Effective logistics, import/export and manufacturing consulting services require detailed industry knowledge and experience, but can add significant value to these industries by providing expert advice on various technical elements in their value chains, says...
Alert Close
Embed Code Close
Research Reports Close
Research Reports are a product of the
Research Channel Africa. Reports can be bought individually or you can gain full access to all reports as part of a Research Channel Africa subscription.
Find Out More Buy Report
Engineering News
Completely Re-Engineered
Experience it now. Click here
*website to launch in a few weeks
Subscribe Now for $96 Close
Subscribe Now for $96