Monday, 6 August 2012

If Curiosity meets a cat on Mars

...will it be obliged to kill it?
This and other deep philosophical problems may be answered over the coming months following the successful landing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) aka Curiosity.

 I have dithered for weeks about posting on this because of the hugely ambitious landing procedure. I didn't know how to describe the complexity and all hopes could have been dashed by the failure of one tiny component, but this amalgam of spacecraft, Transformer and Rube Goldberg machine worked flawlessly and delivered a mobile chemistry lab to the surface of Mars. A tribute to the expertise of the team who designed and built it.*

This image is from one of the hazard cameras down near the rover's wheels. They have fisheye lenses and I think the transparent dust caps are still on for protection during landing. Martian pixies should soon remove these for a clearer view. The scene shows a wheel resting on a flat terrain (marsain?) which stretches to the horizon, with the rim of Gale crater rising like mountains on the right.

 Now begins the slow process of bringing all the systems online, testing and calibrating and then Curiosity can do it's job. Inquiry and curiosity are part of the human spirit; this Curiosity may satisfy some of those dreams

EDIT: the dust caps are off in this image. People seem to be surprised at the amount of dust which got through to the lens despite the cap. It's not a problem though, dust will come and go with the wind and was expected.

*If you haven't seen the landing simulation video by now . . . er, which planet have you been on for the last few years?


duncanr said...

Apart from anything else, I'm impressed at the software that has played a critical role in the success of the mission so far - they certainly aren't relying on Windows !

[I wish Bill Gates would hire these guys to write a new operating system for my desktop !]

Andy Holroyd said...

It is impressive Duncan. All the landing sequence was automated, no time for a reboot on the way down.