Curiosity Reboots In Preparation For Mars Landing - InformationWeek
05:51 PM

Curiosity Reboots In Preparation For Mars Landing

Reset of primary and backup systems to default state is the first step in "hardest mission in history of robotic planetary exploration."

NASA's Blue Marble: 50 Years Of Earth Imagery
NASA's Blue Marble: 50 Years Of Earth Imagery
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The computers on NASA's Curiosity rover are being rebooted as the spacecraft approaches Mars for its Aug. 5 landing. The process, which occurs over four days, resets Curiosity's primary and backup systems to their default state in advance of a landing sequence that leaves little room for error.

The computers, called Rover Compute Elements, are redundant systems. The reboot process began on July 16 and will continue through July 20, the space agency said on its website.

NASA estimates that about seven minutes will pass from the time Curiosity enters Mars' atmosphere until it touches down in the area of Gale Crater. But it takes 14 minutes for signals from the rover to reach Earth, so there will be a significant time lag before NASA knows that Curiosity landed safely.

The spacecraft carrying Curiosity, called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), launched in November from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The rover's landing will be "the hardest NASA mission ever attempted in the history of robotic planetary exploration," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, in a news release.

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Unlike earlier missions to Mars, the one-ton Curiosity rover won't use an "airbag" to cushion its fall. Instead, it will use what NASA refers to as a "sky crane" to set down, first employing a supersonic parachute to reduce its speed through the thin atmosphere, followed by retro-rockets and even nylon cords.

The goal is to lower Curiosity slowly so that it doesn't get covered with dust upon landing. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will be traveling at a mere 1.7 miles per hour when it touches the surface. This NASA video, entitled Curiosity's Seven Minutes Of Terror, shows the stages of descent to Mars' surface.

"Those seven minutes are the most challenging part of this entire mission," said MSL project manager Pete Theisinger in NASA's statement. "For the landing to succeed, hundreds of events will need to go right, many with split-second timing and all controlled autonomously by the spacecraft."

The purpose of the mission is to study whether there is any evidence of habitable environments on Mars. Curiosity carries instruments to undertake science investigations, with power, communications, and tools for taking rock and soil samples. The mission is set to last 98 weeks, or one Martian year.

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Number 6
Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
7/18/2012 | 9:30:36 PM
re: Curiosity Reboots In Preparation For Mars Landing
I'm glad NASA followed the advice of Roy from The IT Crowd and tried turning it off and on.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 3:32:06 PM
re: Curiosity Reboots In Preparation For Mars Landing
165 feet (50 meters) in length, and opens to a diameter of nearly 51 feet
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 3:04:19 PM
re: Curiosity Reboots In Preparation For Mars Landing
I just watched that video regarding this whole mission trip to Mars. I have to say it is very interesting to see if this will have a successful landing, I am curious exactly how big the supersonic parachute is? There was an exceptional amount of knowledge and skills that must collaborate for the mission to be a success. Great video, I was sitting on the edge of my chair, technology and the ability to do this is pure awesomeness!!

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
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