NASA rover lands on Mars (Update 4)

Aug 06, 2012 by ALICIA CHANG
This image shows one of the first views from NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (early morning hours Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on one of the rover's Hazard-Avoidance cameras. These engineering cameras are located at the rover's base. As planned, the early images are lower resolution. Larger color images are expected later in the week when the rover's mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has successfully landed its $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover on the surface of the Red Planet, breaking new ground in US-led exploration of an alien world.

The one-ton rover is the largest ever sent to Mars, and its high-speed landing was the most daring to date, using a never before tested rocket-powered sky crane to lower the six-wheeled vehicle gently to the planet's surface.

"Touchdown confirmed," said a member of mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the room erupted in cheers late Sunday. "We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God."

A dusty image of the rover's wheel on the surface, taken from a rear camera on the vehicle, confirmed the arrival of the car-sized rover and its sophisticated toolkit designed to hunt for signs that life once existed there.

A second image arrived within seconds, showing the shadow of the rover on Mars. The official landing time was 10:32 pm Sunday on the US West Coast (0532 GMT Monday), according to a NASA statement.

The nuclear-powered rover is now set for a two-year mission to explore the Red Planet, including a long climb up a mountain to analyze sediment layers that are up to a billion years old.

When the landing was announced after a tense, seven-minute process known as entry, descent and landing, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory filled with jubilation as the mission team cheered, exchanged hugs and chief scientists handed out Mars chocolate bars.

President Barack Obama described the feat as a singular source of American pride.

"The successful landing of Curiosity -- the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet -- marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future," he said in a statement.

Charles Bolden, the NASA administrator, applauded all the nations who contributed to science experiments on board the rover.

"It is a huge day for the nation, it is a huge day for all of our partners who have something on Curiosity and it is a huge day for the American people," Bolden said.

Obama's science adviser John Holdren described the landing as "an enormous step forward in planetary exploration. Nobody has ever done anything like this."

"And if anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of US leadership in space, well there is a one-ton automobile sized piece of American ingenuity that is sitting on the surface of Mars right now," he added.

However, success was anything but certain. NASA's more recent rover dropoffs involved smaller craft that were cushioned with the help of airbags.

In the final moments, the MSL spacecraft accelerated with the pull of gravity as it neared Mars's atmosphere, making a fiery entry at a speed of 13,200 miles (21,240 kilometers) per hour and then slowing down with the help of a supersonic parachute.

After that, an elaborate sky crane powered by rocket blasters kicked in, and the rover was lowered down by nylon tethers, apparently landing upright on all six wheels.

Adam Steltzner, engineer and leader of the entry, descent and landing team, who has previously admitted the landing bid appeared "crazy," said that in the end, it "looked extremely clean."

In this photo provided by NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team welcomes White House Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren, third standing from left, as he stops by to meet the landing team and to say "Go Curiosity" as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, second from left, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi, far left look on, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 at JPL in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT Sunday night. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

"In my life, I am and will be forever satisfied if this is the greatest thing that I have ever given," he told reporters.

Scientists do not expect Curiosity to find aliens or living creatures. Rather, they hope to use it to analyze soil and rocks for signs that the building blocks of life are present and may have supported life in the past.

The project also aims to study the Martian environment to prepare for a possible human mission there in the coming years. Obama has vowed to send humans there by 2030.

The spacecraft has already been collecting data on radiation during its eight and a half month journey following launch in November 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Previous attempts by global space agencies since 1960 have resulted in a near 40 percent success rate in sending landers, orbiters or other spacecraft for flybys to Mars.

NASA has the best record, with four prior mission successes to Mars: Viking 1 and 2 (1976), Pathfinder (1997), rovers Spirit and Opportunity (2004) and Phoenix (2008).

More than 1,000 spectators applauded at France's Toulouse Space Center as the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover landed on the Red Planet carrying two French-run components.

"It's a huge thrill after so much suspense," said Marc Pircher of France's CNES space research center. "Now the scientific adventure will begin."

The Toulouse Space Centre hosts the French Instrument Mars Operation Centre, which will manage two French instruments on Curiosity -- the ChemCam and the SAM-GC chromatograph.

The chemical camera will analyze rocks and soil to identify samples that would be of greatest interest to scientists for analysis by other instruments onboard, while the SAM-GC will sort, measure and identify gases for analysis.

"The ChemCam has been tested and it works. Now we know it is functioning on Mars," ChemCam deputy principal investigator Sylvestre Maurice told AFP.

Australian scientists at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, which received the signals for the entry, descent and landing of the mission, also celebrated the "textbook" touchdown.

"When the signal came through... the place erupted. People were just over the moon... they were literally joyous," spokesman Glen Nagle said.

"For a lot of people who were too young to be around at the time of Apollo, this was their moon landing."

In this photo provided by NASA, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Flight Systems Chief Engineer Rob Manning, left, smiles as he watches MSL Flight Director Keith Comeaux move the final marble from a jar marked "Days Until Entry" to the jar marked "Days Since Launch" at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

Key facts about NASA's Mars Science Laboratory

Here are some key facts about the mission of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover, the most sophisticated robotic vehicle ever built for planetary exploration.

MISSION: To study the Gale Crater near Mars's equator for signs that life may once have existed, and for clues about past and present habitable environments on the Red Planet. It is designed to function for 98 Earth weeks, or about one Martian year.

LAUNCH:

The mission launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011 atop a two-stage Atlas V 541 rocket by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed. The journey to Mars has taken about 8.5 months, or 254 days.

LANDING:

"Seven minutes of terror" is a popular Internet video featuring top NASA scientists who describe the final touchdown scheduled for August 6 at 0531 GMT.

This is the first attempt of its kind to land a heavy vehicle on Mars by using a rocket-powered sky crane.

Entry, descent and landing begins when the spacecraft reaches the top of Mars's atmosphere, traveling at a speed of 13,200 miles per hour (5,900 meters per second).

Ten minutes before the spacecraft enters the atmosphere, it sheds its cruise stage, or the parts that carried propellant tanks and antennae to keep the spacecraft on course to Mars and enable communications.

It then goes through a period of peak heating as it enters the Mars atmosphere. A parachute is deployed, the heat shield separates and the rocket-powered sky crane deploys nylon cords to lower the rover to the surface.

Touchdown should occur at 1.7 miles per hour.

VEHICLE: A car-sized robotic rover with six wheels, nicknamed Curiosity. It weighs about one ton (900 kilograms) and cost $2.5 billion. The concept first emerged in 2000 and was developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

TOOLKIT: Ten instrument-based science investigations are on board:

1) Mast camera (MASTCAM) contains two megapixel color cameras that act as the left and right eye of the rover, and are capable of returning stills, video and 3D images.

2) Chemistry and Camera (CHEMCAM) is a rock-vaporizing laser and telescope combination that can target a rock 23 feet (seven meters) away, burn it and analyze the light that emerges to identify the chemical elements inside.

3) Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is on the robotic arm and can identify chemical elements in rocks and soil.

4) Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is a color camera on the end of the robotic arm for use in getting closeups of the ground or wider scenes of the landscape.

5) Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) analyzes powdered rock and soils with X-ray diffraction.

6) Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) has three tools to check for carbon-based compounds that are the building blocks for life, examine the chemical state of other elements important for life and search for clues about planetary changes.

7) Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) records daily and seasonal changes in the weather on Mars.

8) Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) monitors high energy atomic and subatomic particles from the sun that could pose a danger to astronauts if a human mission to Mars ever occurs.

9) Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) can detect underground water beneath the rover at a distance of 20 inches (50 centimeters).

10) Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) records full-color video of the final few minutes of the rover's descent onto the Martian surface. A few images are expected back within days of the landing, but the full video may take longer.

EXPLORATION SITE: Gale Crater, a 96-mile wide crater that contains a three-mile high mountain, shaped like a broad mound so the six-wheeled rover can climb at least halfway up the site.

Mars landing 'unprecedented feat of technology': Obama

US President Barack Obama hailed early Monday the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover on the surface of the Red Planet, calling it "an unprecedented feat of technology."

"The successful landing of Curiosity -- the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet -- marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future," Obama said in a statement.

The comments came after the US space agency NASA successfully landed the $2.5-billion rover on the surface of Mars.

A dusty image of the rover's wheel on the surface, taken from a rear camera on the vehicle, confirmed the arrival of the car-sized probe and its sophisticated toolkit designed to hunt for signs that life once existed there.

A second image arrived within seconds, showing the shadow of the rover on Mars.

Obama said the United States "made history" with the achievement.

"It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination," he said.

"And tonight's success reminds us that our preeminence -- not just in space, but here on Earth -- depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world."

Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

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Vendicar_Decarian
3.1 / 5 (30) Aug 06, 2012
Congratulations to NASA and the Government Scientists and Engineers involved in the mission for a successful landing on Mars.

I find it sad that so many Libertarian/Randite Americans like CapitalismFails were wishing for the failure of the mission so that they could use it as an example of the Failure of Government and Government science.

Once again, Congratulations to NASA - the only part of America that is worthy of preserving.

Maggnus
5 / 5 (24) Aug 06, 2012
Congratulations to the Mars Science Labratory team for their successful landing.
And wow VD can't you just revel in success rather than expounding some political agenda? Take a breath and share in the moment!
h20dr
5 / 5 (10) Aug 06, 2012
An awesome achievement for NASA, JPL and their teams, America and human kind! I predict that the scientific discoveries Curiosity makes will be no less dramatic and awesome than the 'against all odds" landing. Have a Mars Bar and celebrate!
Caliban
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 06, 2012
Congratulations are in order for the Curiosity Mission and all and everyone involved in its successful landing.

On Mars, baby!!! Don't forget the string of spectacular failed attempts that have gone before --this in no way qualified as a cake walk...

And here's where I pointedly join with Vendicar in giving a thumb in the eye to all the naysayers, doubters, haters, and ignorant mumblebums that wished for the failure of Curiosity for purely ideological reasons.

Victory is important in what is vanquished, as well.

And now that we have gotten past that acknowlegement, we can look forward to a steady outpouring of new findings. It will be edifying to see how this new information will change the way we understand things.

Diggity!!!!



Bookbinder
4.7 / 5 (6) Aug 06, 2012
Spectacularly cool weekend: Phelps on Sat & Curiosity landing on Sun. Congratulations JPL, the worthy new heart of the American space program.
roboferret
5 / 5 (8) Aug 06, 2012
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- T. Roosevelt

Congratulations team Curiosity on your mighty victory!
A2G
4 / 5 (8) Aug 06, 2012
Well done NASA. Now lets find those little green men we keep hearing about.
CapitalismPrevails
1.2 / 5 (22) Aug 06, 2012
woooohooo.....i could of lost a dollar BUT DIDN'T! Which is why i only bet $1.00. Admit it. If you were forced to bet on Curiosity successfully landing or crashing, you would bet on curiosity crashing given the odds. But fortunately Curiosity overcame.

BTW VD, 1 billion over budget is failure enough for me. Sure NASA can pull of these dicey superfluous science missions but at what cost?
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (18) Aug 06, 2012
Massive kudos to the scientists and engineers at NASA (the success couldn't have come at a more opportune time).
It will be an exciting few years for the ground crews - and a lot of sleepless nights and weekend work - to get the most out of this.

1 billion over budget is failure enough for me.

Which means you would have shut down the entire military since 1950 or so?
yks
3.3 / 5 (4) Aug 06, 2012
Excellent !
Thrilling moments indeed. I was wondering though, can it be done easier or we will lose the thrill that way :)
Mike_Massen
3.5 / 5 (13) Aug 06, 2012
Congratulations to Nasa & the people committed to excellence !

PLEASE
Can we stop political diatribe from everyone, its obvious any single entity can't do everything, cooperation is important and essential.

Whats more important is how people are motivated, managed & encouraged to cooperate !

yks
1.8 / 5 (6) Aug 06, 2012
Oh, wait, there is no other way :)
We still use chemical propulsion. Nevertheless, this is a great NASA moment. Thumb up for NASA.
Satene
2.1 / 5 (11) Aug 06, 2012
I find it sad that so many Libertarian/Randite Americans like CapitalismFails were wishing for the failure of the mission
You apparently missed the fact, whole mission was planed and designed deeply in Bush era (2000 - 2008). NASA called for proposals for the rover's scientific instruments in April 2004, and eight proposals were selected on December 14 of that year.

Sometimes the silly republican is better, than fanatical democrat. All fanatics should be jailed preventively.
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (17) Aug 06, 2012
Sometimes the silly republican is better, than fanatical democrat.

And you are aware that NASA decides how to spend its budget - not Congress? So it's neither democrats nor republicans who have anything to take credit for, here.
Satene
1.5 / 5 (13) Aug 06, 2012
you are that NASA decides how to spend its budget - not Congress
Not at all. NASA is not private agency - but governmental organization and Congress approves all significant figures of NASA budget. If you believe, some crazy scientists can send a satellite to Mars without explicit agreement of Congress, then you've no idea, how USA democracy works. Congress approved figure $1.63 billion in August 2006 in accordance to NASA Authorization Act, approved in 2005. If you would follow all your arguments with links, you wouldn't blame yourself again.
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (13) Aug 06, 2012
Here's a link to the NASA budgetary decision making process:
http://www.hq.nas...ap4.html
(if you don't want to read it all there's a handy chart in section 4.2.6)

Congress approves the budget (or doesn't approve). It doesn't have a say in which projects will be submitted.
The direction is given by the Administrator "with participation of the CIC" through the Agency CFO.
Satene
1.3 / 5 (14) Aug 06, 2012
Congress approves the budget (or doesn't approve). It doesn't have a say in which projects will be submitted
LOL, of course it doesn't have, but he CAN - and this is the point. The policeman doesn't have to penalize you, but he CAN. This is the principle of power. Don't play with words, you're not sufficiently smart for it. BTW At the moment, when NASA expenditures are approved with Congress, they become a part of USA law. NASA cannot dismiss it after then without additional approval of Congress.
Mayday
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 06, 2012
A great night for NASA, JPL & America. Let's hope Curiosity stays healthy and has a long and productive life revealing a few more of the Red Planet's secrets.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (14) Aug 06, 2012
LOL, of course it doesn't have, but he CAN - and this is the point. The policeman doesn't have to penalize you, but he CAN.


To quote your good self:
You apparently missed the fact, whole mission was planed and designed deeply in Bush era (2000 - 2008).


What I'm saying is: Congress didn't have anything to do with the planning, design or selection of the mission.
They can't take credit for it in any way, shape or form (though I'm sure Mitt Romney will take credit for it. He seems to take credit for any- and everything these days)

The ONLY thing Congress said was "your budget is OK".
PoppaJ
4.1 / 5 (9) Aug 06, 2012
Congratulations NASA you make us proud of you, us and our country in general for being able to do these things. We all look forward to the results.

danlgarmstrong
5 / 5 (5) Aug 06, 2012
Gotta love all the cool technology in this mission - that Sky Crane especially! Never been anything like it. It makes me grin just thinking about how well it worked. GO NASA!

nayTall
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2012
i feel great: i don't physically know anyone who talks politics regardless of the topic at hand, and we have a $2.5bn lab on Mars. gotta say it was a good day..
CapitalismPrevails
1.3 / 5 (15) Aug 06, 2012
Ok, one thing i have to ask is why didn't they add HD cameras and land the rover 10-20 kilometers from Valles Marineris? It's a canyon which is 3 times deeper than the Grand Canyon and is so wide at some points that the other side can not be seen. For 2.5 billion dollars after 1 billion over budget, you'd want more.
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (13) Aug 06, 2012
i have to ask is why didn't they add HD cameras

Because this is a science mission. Not a PR trip.

and land the rover 10-20 kilometers from Valles Marineris?

Because this is a science mission. Not a PR trip.

You go where you think you can do the best science and you bring along the instruments that let you do the best science. There's no (scientific) point in bringing along HD cameras and no point going to a canyon which you cannot go into to do science (and which may, abbruptly, cut your stay short)
CapitalismPrevails
1.6 / 5 (13) Aug 06, 2012
Antialias, you make grand assumptions that Libertarians full heatedly endorse overseas military operation. Libertarians are not Republicans. We spend 4.7% GDP on our military. I'm all for spending eliminating our subsidies to other countries national defense. BTW, i believe NASA has to present their plans to Congress in order justify the NASA budget so obviously Congress would have an impact on how NASA spends money.
CapitalismPrevails
1.3 / 5 (12) Aug 06, 2012
NASA is a PR operation. Why has the shuttle been around so long? Because of the vested interest. If they were about science, they would have bit the bullet and resorted to privatizing their launch vehicles so they would have more money left over to spend on science. If they wanna talk about inspiring young kids at their press conference, getting a view of Valles Marineris would inspire a lot of people i think.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (8) Aug 06, 2012
Antialias, you make grand assumptions that Libertarians full heatedly endorse overseas military operation.

No idea where that assumption on your part comes from. From what I see the american public wholeheartedly endorses overseas militray operations indiscriminately (democrats, republicans, libertarians, tea party, whatever)

I'm all for spending eliminating our subsidies to other countries national defense.

Good for you. I was just pointing out that if you're miffed about 1 billion extra by NASA for 5 minutes then you'll never have any time (because you'd have to be miffed 24/365 about the waste that is going on in the military). It's just a matter of keeping things in perspective.

Congress would have an impact on how NASA spends money.

Only whether or not it spends money on certain items. Congress can't make any items up for them to spend on. The last time anyone of the political class did that was Kennedy ("before the decade is out..." and all that jazz)
The Singularity
3.5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2012
Congrats to NASA & the MSL team, impresive work. & Obama "your economy is not the envy of world" I think that came out wrong.
Deathclock
3.5 / 5 (11) Aug 06, 2012
Ok, one thing i have to ask is why didn't they add HD cameras and land the rover 10-20 kilometers from Valles Marineris? It's a canyon which is 3 times deeper than the Grand Canyon and is so wide at some points that the other side can not be seen. For 2.5 billion dollars after 1 billion over budget, you'd want more.


Because the taxpayers did not pay 2.5 billion dollars for a fancy postcard from Mars? There is a point to the mission, not to just fritter around landmarks snapping pictures.
CapitalismPrevails
1.3 / 5 (14) Aug 06, 2012
ok well they already came to the conclusion that water existed on Mars. Surely if they had landed near a canyon area they'd have a better chance to look at sedimentary rock and conduct more science.
Shabs42
5 / 5 (4) Aug 06, 2012
No idea where that assumption on your part comes from. From what I see the american public wholeheartedly endorses overseas militray operations indiscriminately (democrats, republicans, libertarians, tea party, whatever)


Oh, you know that's an exaggeration. Many, if not most normal Americans would rather scale back our military operations; especially those that identify themselves as Democrats or liberals. I'm all over the spectrum personally depending on the issue, but I believe strongly in bringing around 90% of our troops back home and diverting a good chunk of our military budget to other ventures.

Again, I think a good portion of Americans would agree with me, but due to a thousand reasons not worth getting into here, the message is lost in Washington.

Back on topic, good on you NASA. Awesome stuff like this is a positive for all of humanity.
Shabs42
5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2012
ok well they already came to the conclusion that water existed on Mars. Surely if they had landed near a canyon area they'd have a better chance to look at sedimentary rock and conduct more science.


2) Chemistry and Camera (CHEMCAM) is a rock-vaporizing laser and telescope combination that can target a rock 23 feet (seven meters) away, burn it and analyze the light that emerges to identify the chemical elements inside.


They're shooting freaking lasers on Mars, I think they'll be able to conduct an appropriate amount of science.
Deathclock
3.5 / 5 (14) Aug 06, 2012
ok well they already came to the conclusion that water existed on Mars. Surely if they had landed near a canyon area they'd have a better chance to look at sedimentary rock and conduct more science.


I don't pretend to know more about doing science on Mars than NASA scientists who actually do science on Mars...
Lurker2358
3 / 5 (4) Aug 06, 2012
You know, I still don't see how you can possibly send humans to Mars without contaminating the environment with Earth life and obviously contaminating the living quarters with martian dust at least, plus anything else there.

Even if you use air locks and stuff, and those suits that are always outside the vehicle, the dust will still get in from the back side of your suit, which must interface with the vehicle. Likewise, bacteria and stuff from the humans will end up on the suit somehow, and get out on the Mars surface.

None of this can be helped, of course, no matter how good your quarantine and sterilization procedures may be.

Soooo, when humans go to Mars we WILL be seeding life on the Red planet, certainly bacteria, viruses, and prions, and possibly molds and fungi as well.

Whether or not it can live there at all, and how, is quite another matter.
Lurker2358
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 06, 2012
I'm wondering what are a bunch of guys going to do in a tin can all that time anyway.

No girls, and looking at Victoria's Secret website in space could be dangerous and unsanitary.

Maybe they could build bigger living compartments and send newly weds couples.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (20) Aug 06, 2012
Because this is a science mission. Not a PR trip.
Well of course its both.

"...marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future," Obama said in a statement."

-And govt absolutely DOES have a say in what NASA does and what money it gets to do so.
http://www.foxnew...program/

-For starters NASA has always been a military agency re the Vandenberg launch facility, Sputnik, and atlas/ICBMs.

Recon is a vital part of military activity; knowing before the enemy knows, about anything, is a vital advantage. Obama for instance designated asteroids and the mars moons as the next goal for NASA. this is militarily the 'high ground' and the first nation to control THESE positions has control of the inner system.

You can see why it is so important that the good guys get there first.
GSwift7
3 / 5 (4) Aug 06, 2012
I'm really glad this one worked, especially with so much media attention. I stayed up late (east coast here) and watched the live feed from the control room online. That was really nice. They were streaming it live, in HD. It was one of the most professional NASA broadcasts I've ever seen. It was done with the kind of production quality I did not expect from them.

The Earthlings have invaded Mars once again. This time with larger invasion craft armed with a laser that can melt stone and a robot arm with diabolicle tools on it. Muahahahah.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (19) Aug 06, 2012
NASA is a PR operation. Why has the shuttle been around so long? Because of the vested interest.
The shuttle was a military vehicle, designed specifically to transport spy satellites and space station components. It was kept flying until robotics had reached the point where the military could replace it. It offered launch, loiter, cargo, and return flexibility that other launch systems did not.

This is why it was developed over much simpler and cheaper and safer alternatives, and why it's critical design flaws were not acknowledged until the Decision was made to test it to destruction. To demonstrate in a most Emphatic Manner why it needed to be replaced, as a matter of national security.

That downtime was deeply troubling to a military which had no functional alternatives for performing some of it's most critical missions.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (16) Aug 06, 2012
The Earthlings have invaded Mars once again. This time with larger invasion craft armed with a laser that can melt stone and a robot arm with diabolicle tools on it. Muahahahah.
The laser is mo doubt for popping the transparent heads of 900 foot tall somnambulant Martians. And malevolent Chinese rovers.

Did you know that the first Russian space station was equipped with an anti-gemini autocannon?
http://www.fourmi...aceguns/

-Which does inform us about the potential military applications of the Gemini program with demonstrated EVA capability
GSwift7
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 06, 2012
Ok, one thing i have to ask is why didn't they add HD cameras and land the rover 10-20 kilometers from Valles Marineris?


From the wiki page:

"The cameras can take true color images at 1600×1200 pixels and up to 10 frames per second hardware-compressed, high-definition video at 720p (1280×720)"

Keep in mind that you can't just use consumer grade electronics. For this kind of mission you need to build stuff from scratch or use the old stuff designed for previous missions and try to upgrade it. The company working on the cameras actually did try to get an even better camera system in place but they ran out of time. With the speed of advancement in camera tech today, any camera is obsolete in a year or less.
extinct
3 / 5 (7) Aug 06, 2012
for every dollar spent on NASA, society benefits by about 20 to 30 dollars and in a relatively short period of time, like a decade or two. it is very worthwhile to carry out such missions. we need more NASA exploration and less preemptive war. congratulations to all humans (not just Americans) on this historic human achievement!
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
By next weekend (or sooner) we should have the first Hi-Def full color panorama, as long as nothing prevents them from raising the mast. Checking out the immediate surroundings is a top mission priority. They'll want to upload the descent video asap too. I bet we get that by the end of the day today.
Lurker2358
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 06, 2012
for every dollar spent on NASA, society benefits by about 20 to 30 dollars and in a relatively short period of time, like a decade or two. it is very worthwhile to carry out such missions. we need more NASA exploration and less preemptive war. congratulations to all humans (not just Americans) on this historic human achievement!


That's an enormous over estimate.

I think the real amount was calculated to be allegedly about 2 dollars.

Very few things NASA has ever built directly impact the consumer market, because there are usually already better/cheaper analogs for Earth consumer purposes.

Even so, the majority of these advances could have been and would have been made for cheaper through directed R&D for other goals.

IF the estimated cost of the ISS was spent directly on cancer and other medical research, fundamental biology research, nano-materials, and robotics research, then we'd be so far ahead of where we are now it's crazy.
Deathclock
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 06, 2012
Progress does not scale directly with how much money you throw at a problem. The beauty of the knowledge we gain from NASA is that we weren't necessarily looking for it to begin with, we arrive at it by surprise. No amount of money spent on a direct research project can get you to a solution that you didn't even know you were looking for to begin with.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
Congratulations NASA.

Even though it was brilliantly planned and executed, it was still risky and took a lot of guts. If NASA takes a big risk next time and it fails, let's remember that they succeeded spectacularly today.
GSwift7
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 06, 2012
capitalismprevails:

Because of the vested interest. If they were about science, they would have bit the bullet and resorted to privatizing their launch vehicles so they would have more money left over to spend on science


MSL was launced by United Launch Alliance (Boeing and Lockheed). The launch services are already privatized, though since they joined together there isn't any domestic competition. SpaceX tried to file an antitrust suit against them and got denied. It's really a bad deal to let them run a monopoly, but oh well.
Modernmystic
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
Props to you NASA, let's hope you designed this rover better than the phoenix one ;)

Seriously though, it's tough to get missions to Mars and congratulations are in order to all involved.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012
"The cameras can take true color images at 16001200 pixels and up to 10 frames per second hardware-compressed, high-definition video at 720p (1280720)"


I though it could only take video after it's parachute descent stage.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2012

MSL was launced by United Launch Alliance (Boeing and Lockheed). The launch services are already privatized, though since they joined together there isn't any domestic competition. SpaceX tried to file an antitrust suit against them and got denied. It's really a bad deal to let them run a monopoly, but oh well.


Do you have a better alternative?
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2012
Excellent work NASA. Keep it up!
I wish tho you installed a video camera or two, on the back shell/parachute and the descent stage to take the picture of the lander...
GSwift7
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 06, 2012
I though it could only take video after it's parachute descent stage.


There's a low-res (black and white I think) video camera on the bottom of the rover, which started recording when the heat shield came off and all the way down to the ground. I assume they are working on uploading that video today. The main cameras on the rover are all full color HD video/still cameras. Each has a different lense, but they are all the same 2 megapixle CCD chip and image processsors inside. There's one medium field lense, like you would use at home. One is long range telephoto. And the one on the end of the arm has a microscope lense. The image at the top of this story is just one of the navigation cameras. They are stereoscopic low-res black and white, and there are several of them around the rover. They aren't really meant for photography of any kind.
scidog
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
lets hear it for the Old Guys.
over the weekend we had a cook out with a very nice couple,the husband like me is retired but when he worked for a local based but world wide tech company he also taught grad school level classes in a branch of electronic engineering.
his classes were also watched by TV hook up by the other smart guys at big time tech crews.thats the set up,a quiet genius.
so with the landing the next evening and a few beers i said something like the computer age and the use of the new machining
technique really made the landing fool proof,way above what could have been done back in the drafting table and slide rule era..
he just sort of smiled and said "ya, but the math thats used now was thought up and worked out by the slide rule and drafting table guys."
Nikstlitselpmur
1 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2012
What could be of such importance to warrant another mission to Mars? We didn't return to the moon. If we are to believe our political masters we are looking for the origins of life. Has a sort of religious and noble overtone to it, don't you think?
There is more than likely no oil on Mars, as there was more than likely no vegetation nor dinosaurs, nope must be something else, So what could a big ball of Iron Ore hold for the powers that be?

Iron oxide copper gold ore deposits (IOCG) are important and highly valuable concentrations of copper, gold and uranium ores hosted within iron oxide dominant gangue assemblages which share a common genetic origin.

Search for the origins of life my patooty. Money talks, BS walks.
sirchick
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2012
Can some one explain why the images are black and white even on a modern mission like this?

Surely its beneficial that all pictures are in colour, im surprised they really bother with black and white images these days, unless there is a complication that I am not aware of.

I'm sure a basic colour camera instead of black and white one will not break the budget that badly.
yyz
3 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2012
@sirchick,

The black and white images returned from the Hazcams and Navcams are for engineering and mission planning purposes, for which color imaging would be superfluous and unnecessary. The two primary scientific cameras, the Mastcams, are equipped to take natural color images (through the use of a Bayer Pattern Filter) and are also fitted with an array of narrowband filters to allow multispectral imaging of the Martian landscape: http://www.msss.c...ion.html

The Mastcams are currently undergoing checkout and calibration and should be returning their first color panoramas of the landing site soon. Most of the imagery returned and released to the public will be from the Mastcams, so hold on a little longer for the inevitable flood of color pictures that they will return. It will be worth the wait.
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2012
Can some one explain why the images are black and white even on a modern mission like this?

There's some advantages of black and white over color. Regular cameras use 4 capacitors in the CCD to capture one color pixel (one for red, one for blue and two for green is a common configuration)
If you restrict yourself to black and white you can get double the resolution out of the same chip.

Color also uses filters. Whenever you filter something you lose information. Science is about information (and the color of the landscape is quite inconsequential to most scientific studies.)

You really want the best resolution, contrast and sensitivity - and that you get with using every pixel and no filters.

As I said before: This is a science mission - not a PR trip so people can munch chips while watching pretty pictures from Mars.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2012
Whereas Americans landed with Curiosity smoothly, Russians have lost another pair of satellites (Russian and Indonesian one) with their Proton M rocket. The debris of both satellites could threat both the ISS, both Earth after impact. Now Medvedjev appears really upset already and he wants to solve this situation at the governmental level. This is IMO partially the result of lost of continuity in cosmic research after of end Soviet Union in 1991.
yyz
3 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2012
Here's an early color panorama from one of the Mastcam cameras: http://mars.jpl.n...-br2.jpg

There's plenty of detail (in full color) in this early science image.
Mike_Massen
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 12, 2012
The other issue sirchick is bandwidth, the comms pipe from Mars to Earth is not fat, a fair res b/w image is much quicker to view and especially important at the early stage if at least to offer some confidence the rover is the right way up, not perched on a rock/boulder that might collapse etc etc ie. Faster to receive and interpret a b/w image in the event of an unforeseen threat which might have its severity managed etc.

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