NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is in the process of being returned to full activity after undergoing a precautionary stand-down during the July 4th weekend. Its mission has been extended.
The rover put itself into safe mode on July 2, 2016, and engineers are working to determine what caused it to do that. While in safe mode, the rover ceased most of its activities, with the exception of keeping itself healthy and following a prescribed sequence for resuming communications.
The engineers have determined, based on preliminary information, that an unexpected mismatch between the rover’s camera software and data-processing software in the main computer, could potentially be the reason why the rover went into safe mode.
The Curiosity Mars Rover was launched on November 6, 2011. It landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, and is still there. The goal of its mission is to determine if Mars was ever able to support microbial life.
NASA has approved an additional two-year extension of the Curiosity rover’s mission. That mission will begin on October 1, 2016. The Mars Science Laboratory developed and operates Curiosity. That team will be working on the near-term steps towards having Curiosity resume full activities, which begins with a request for more diagnostic information from the rover.
Most of us have spent the past couple of months being completely fascinated with Curiosity, the latest and largest lander to roam the surface of Mars. NASA has been regularly posting images snapped by the multiple cameras on board the rover, but the one it snapped on October 31st may be the best so far.
Astronomer Phil Plait, who pointed this image out, dubbed it “the single greatest vacation picture ever taken” and I can’t argue one bit. After all, how would you like to send this image home to friends and family? The incredible self-portrait took some work. It’s actually a composite made up of 55 different high-resolution images taken by a camera mounted at the end of a two meter long arm (the arm was edited out to improve the image).
You can get much more detailed information by visiting Phil’s Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover Magazine. The image looks much like any desert on earth, but it’s a much starker and colder location than the images belie. You can view the full resolution at the link below the image.
In what can only be described as an amazing landing the JPL / NASA team, and all their partners pulled it off, and we now have a new Rover “Curiosity” sitting on the planet Mars..
Not only that but the very first images shot through a filter that was protecting the camera lense, was nothing less than a confirmation that the team has just landed a rover as big as a SUV on the Red Planet safely and ready to start collecting science.
I have to say, I was just about jumping out of my chair during the 7 minutes of terror which turned out to be less terror with the continuous stream of data relayed from Odyssey. Congratulations to the team and we look forward to years of science.
I will be hosting a Google+ Hangout tonight at 9pm Pacific. I still have room on the guest list if you would like to participate so drop me a note with your Google+ account info. We will be talking about the Mars landing. Low key affair nothing fancy.
The big one we have all been waiting for is on it’s way. The Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, lifted off yesterday from Florida and began it’s 8 and half month journey to the red planet. Curiosity carries with it the hopes and dreams of, not just a lot of scientists and NASA engineers, but also a lot of average Americans who can only dream of this trip and what can be discovered there.
Carried into space on an Atlas 5 rocket, Curiosity, a rover the size of a car, will touch down in the Gale Crater and begin it’s systematic experiments in search of the building blocks of life on Mars. Gale Crater is described by Universe Today as “one of the most scientifically interesting locations on the Red Planet because it exhibits exposures of clay minerals that formed in the presence of neutral liquid water that could be conducive to the genesis of life.”
The launch yesterday went off without a hitch and the rover is now on it’s way to the red planet. Before you get too excited, Curiosity won’t discover life (if any), but only find if the necessary conditions are present. Finding actual life will have to wait for the next mission. As with all things this complicated, expensive, and time-consuming the scale of time is much greater than we all would like it to be.
You can watch a video of yesterday’s launch below.