Friday, January 28, 2011

Going to Mars (without having to learn all that sciencey stuff)

Our friend, Heather Archuletta, who runs the wonderful Pillownaut blog, posted this back in 2009, but I thought it was worth reposting here (as is much of her stuff, but that would be stealing...)

Built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Curiosity, the largest Mars Science Laboratory ever, will launch this fall and land on Mars some time in the summer of 2012. And there's still time to get your name on a computer chip that will ride to Mars on Curiosity (which is currently my favorite Mars rover name). All you need to do is click on the Send Your Name To Mars link and fill in the information, and you're on board!

More than a million people worldwide have signed up, and , if you're curious about where they live, you can check out the World Participation Map.

From Pillownaut:

"Curiosity is faster, and able to scout much farther and climb higher than the existing Mars rovers (partly because of enhanced tools and also because it will utilize nuclear power instead of solar power).

The size of the rover was such that it required a new landing technique:

The Entry, Descent, and Landing (or EDL) of Curiosity will be similar to the Phoenix Mars Lander, which in itself was an elaboration of those used for Mars Pathfinder and Viking. All used parachutes in descent, but this newest hardware will enjoy much greater precision in guided entry, no airbags for the bounce, and a "sky crane" touchdown system, which will allow a soft, wheels-down landing.

Once she lands, we'll have all new and advanced ways to estimate uncertainties in terrain slopes, wind characteristics, atmospheric density and pressure, rock compositions and water prevalence."

If you sign up, you get a cool certificate. I have taken the liberty of sending Cathy's children to Mars. I don't think she'll mind.

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