Aug 08, 2012
Mars rover Curiosity – so far, so goodBack
Environment|Jet Propulsion Laboratory|Nuclear|System|Systems|United States|USD|California Institute Of Technology|Jet Propulsion Laboratory|Nuclear|Systems|Gale Crater|Power|Tiaan Strydom|Operations|Laser|Radiation|Remote Sensing
© Reuse this
During Wednesday, the rover mission control team will raise Curiosity’s mast, which carries a camera and laser turret mounting seven of its 17 cameras and which will give a human-scale view and will be used for navigation and remote sensing. After being raised and checked out, the turret will be rotated to allow the rover’s Navcam navigation cameras to do a 360˚ pan.
(The laser will be used to study rocks at a distance. It will be used to vaporise a tiny part of interesting rocks, with this vapour then being analysed to determine whether they are worth closer analysis.)
The high-gain antenna, which allows direct communication with Earth, and which was deployed on Tuesday, will have it pointing towards our world adjusted. Curiosity will communicate with Earth both directly through its high gain antenna and, when Earth is below the rover’s horizon, indirectly, using Nasa spacecraft already orbiting Mars (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and, as a backup, Mars Odyssey) as relay platforms.
Another camera, designated Mastcam, will be calibrated using a target carried by Curiosity. The rover has already been sending imagery home using its Mars Hand Lens Imager, or Mahli, and has been collecting scientific data using its Radiation Assessment Detector. Its Rover Environment Monitoring System has also started to operate.
Curiosity’s primary mission is to determine if the right conditions to support life ever existed on Mars. The Aeolis Mons has many layers of different rocks, making examination and analysis relatively easy.
The rover has a designed minimum operational life of at least 24 Earth months (or one Martian year), but its nuclear power plant (which uses plutonium 238 dioxide to produce electricity) should last 14 years. So there is very good chance Curiosity will emulate its predecessors Spirit and Opportunity, and far outlive its predicted life span. Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and were expected to last for three months, but Spirit only failed in 2010 and Opportunity is still operating.
The Curiosity mission is being managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is both a Nasa laboratory and a division of the California Institute of Technology.
The Space Operations Directorate of the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) provided key support to Nasa at the very start of Curiosity’s mission. This came in the form of launch support, as the Mars-bound probe separated from its Atlas V launch rocket over the African continent, back in November 2011.
“We are proud to have been part of this historic event,” said Sansa Space Operations international business manager Tiaan Strydom on Tuesday. “This is one of the most important explorations of space by one of the most advanced space-faring nations in the world; and as Sansa we celebrate this event with the rest of humanity.”
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Science and Technology News
Recent Research Reports
This Week's Magazine
While strongly welcoming the promulgation of the new Part 101 of South Africa’s civil aviation regulations, governing the commercial operation of civil remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) in South Africa, the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa...
LSM Distributors has contracted engineering consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa to undertake the R100-million restoration of the 54-year-old Kyalami racetrack, situated in Midrand. The restoration will assist in re-establishing it as a venue for...
South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has expressed the hope that the defence budget will be significantly increased over the next five years. She did so while addressing the media in her recent budget vote media briefing. The 2015/2016 defence...
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has been an implementing agency for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) since 2008. The relatively young portfolio has 28 projects over 30 countries on the continent according to the 2014 AfDB and GEF annual report released...
Investment in South African youth through apprenticeships and learnerships will not only create direct benefits for businesses but will also contribute significantly to job creation and socioeconomic transformation in the country.