The craziest space moment of the year, in one of the craziest places on Earth
By Laura GeggelPosted 08.06.2012 at 3:40 pm 8 Comments
TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY: A dramatic lightning storm with violent accompanying downpour lit up New York's skies yesterday evening. But the unpredictable weather didn't stop New York's space-loving faithful from gathering in Times Square for NASA's airing of the Curiosity landing on one of the largest screens in the world. At first, it was hard to tell the everyday tourists from the Curiosity-curious. Times Square is always a madhouse. I wove through crowds and around food carts, passed a woman arguing with an actor dressed as Elmo, and walked by two horse-drawn carriages plodding slowly through traffic. At 1 a.m., about a hundred people remained gazing up at the massive Toshiba screen, just below the ball that drops on New Years' Eve.
NASA has just released the best-looking photo (above) we have of the Gale Crater, the piece of the Red Planet where Mars rover Curiosity landed last night. The photo shows the rim of the crater on the horizon and a gravel field in the foreground, as seen through a fisheye lens, a part of the many cameras Curiosity has on board.
PASADENA, Calif. -- It's finally landing day -- or so everyone here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory hopes. After eight months of travel, the Mars rover Curiosity is just hours from phoning home to announce its arrival, scheduled for 1:31 a.m. Monday on the East Coast and 10:31 p.m. Sunday here in California. It might not call right away, however -- or at least we may not be able to hear it if it does. But silence from the Red Planet does not mean all is lost.
You may have heard there's a new rover that's just about to make an edge-of-our-seat landing on Mars. You can read all about the Mars rover Curiosity -- and watch PopSci all weekend, for live updates from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory!
I'm on a flight to Los Angeles today and I'll be writing updates here at PopSci.com and on Twitter throughout the weekend. It's a space nerd's dream, as my colleague Clay Dillow put it -- and I am excited to share it all with you guys!
Why send truck-sized rovers when you can send nanobots?
By Becky FerreiraPosted 08.02.2012 at 11:22 am 4 Comments
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, scheduled to reach the red planet this Sunday, is the size of an SUV for good reason: It's built to carry 165 pounds of scientific instruments over boulders and into gullies. But putting Hummer-size robots on other planets is not altogether practical. For one, it's expensive. (Getting a Curiosity-weight rover to Mars takes more than a million pounds of fuel.) Large rovers are also power-hungry and limited in range. For future missions, some researchers, eager to do more science with fewer resources, have begun looking to nanobots—each one about one-one-billionth as big as Curiosity.
Mars Rover Curiosity is the latest in a robotic chain of explorers created by scientists and engineers, with each new iteration building on past Mars rovers' successes and failures. Mars Rover Curiosity is similar to rovers that have gone before. But it's the most advanced rover ever, and the instruments it carries to analyze Mars will give us more insight than we've ever had.
A week before its scheduled landing, the spacecraft carrying the Mars rover Curiosity is just about done arranging itself in space. There’s time for two more trajectory correction maneuvers, but the one the Mars Science Laboratory pulled off over the weekend should be the last nudge the spacecraft needs before entering the Martian atmosphere.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently released the much-watched "Seven Minutes of Terror" video, which describes the harrowing descent to the Red Planet that the Mars rover Curiosity will undergo on August 5. Now, from the same lab, comes a look at the chemical tools Curiosity will use to search for signs that Mars could have once sustained life.
Scott Maxwell stared at his bedroom ceiling in the hours after his first drive, restless with excitement. All systems were go, and he'd sent the commands by the time he left the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Now he was supposed to sleep before his next shift on Mars time. But he knew that on the fourth planet from the sun, the Spirit rover's wheels had started to move.
"I was thinking that at that moment, there is a robot on another planet, doing what I told it to do. I could not imagine going to sleep," Maxwell recalls. "It just blew my mind. And I still think it's amazing that what I do with my day job is reach out my hand across 100 million miles across of empty space, and move something on another planet."