Curiosity Reaches The Mountain.

After two years and about 5 1/2 miles (9km), curiosity has reached the base of Mount Sharp.  This has to be the slowest road trip ever.  But considering all the scientists stopping the rover and saying “Look over there!”, “Do science here!”, “Drill Baby Drill!”…well maybe not the last one. (It’s a joke people, I don’t want any comments!)

'Mount Sharp' on Mars compared to three big mountains on earth

Anyway, with only 3.4 miles to the top, Curiosity still has a long way to go.

3rovers

Actually, the numbers aren’t that bad for Curiosity.  Spirit only went 4.8 miles while it was still actively roving, and  Opportunity has only gone about 25 miles in 11 years.  Curiosity is a dragster in comparison.

Curiosity is going to be at the base of Mt. Sharp for a while because of the interesting geological strata that is there.  It makes finding about the Martian geological history a lot easier than drilling into the rock.  Samples will still be taken and analyzed, but Curiosity is in it for the long haul.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Look! Its A Flying Saucer!

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) looks like a flying saucer, but doesn’t quite act like one.

A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.  The vehicle, part of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will test an inflatable decelerator and a parachute at high altitudes and speeds over the Pacific Missile Range this June.

In a test scheduled for this month 15-foot-wide LDSD is supposed to be launched by a helium balloon to a height of 120,000 feet, and then blasted up to 180,000 feet by a solid-fueled rocket engine.

Just like that ride a Magic Mountain where they haul you up and then just drop you straight down.

Image: Saucer rocket

As it descends at supersonic speeds, it would inflate an “inner tube” device to increase its diameter to 20 feet to increase atmospheric drag and (hopefully) slow the descent enough for the deployment of a super-strong parachute.  Sort of a better version of how Curiosity landed on Mars.

The problem with Mars, and a whole host of other landing sites, is the lack of atmosphere.  Less atmosphere, less drag.  Even if the gravity is less, most of the spacecraft sent are speeding along at several thousand miles/km per hour and currently cannot carry enough fuel to slow down.

If the test is successful, then NASA won’t need to make any more bouncing balls to land craft on our red neighbor.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Mars – Most Probably Habitable.

Although there has been spectacular hype regarding a billionaires manned trip to Mars, the actual science supports the fact that humans can survive on the red planet.

Curiosity has taken extensive radiation measurements of the planet and the findings look good for a manned mission.

A mission to Mars would consist of a 180-day spaceflight, a 500-day stay (so that Mars and Earth would be in the right position for the return trip) and another 180-day return flight.

The astronauts would be exposed to about 1.01 sieverts of radiation.  As you can see from the chart above, that is less than the cumulative radiation that everyone is exposed to over a year.

However, 1-sievert exceeds NASA’s current standards. But those guidelines were drawn up with missions to low-Earth orbit in mind, and adjustments for longer space mission will have to be made for future exploration.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Curiosity Turns 1!

It seems like yesterday the Curiosity was a bouncing….well free falling…baby spacecraft waiting to hatch, er…be dropped stork-like on to surface of Mars.

 

Although not as old as its bouncing, literally, cousins Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity has not been idle.

Curiosity, which is the size of a car, has traveled 764 yards (699 meters) in the past four weeks after finishing experiments at one location for the past six months.

Curiosity is heading to the base of Mount Sharp, to perform more experiments before heading up the mountain (about 3 mile or 5.5 km high).  It is expected to take the better part of a year to get to the final point of the scheduled mission.

However, if Curiosity is anything like its cousins, data collection will continue well beyond the original program (with sufficient budget of course).  I mean really, after traveling millions of miles, and basically being dropped off, this rover should last for a long time.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Giga-Pixels to explore Mars

My dreams of high-definition astrophotography have already been realized by NASA’s Curiosity rover.

The rover took over 900 images using the rover’s mastcam.  The Mastcam can take high-definition video at 10 frames per second.  There are actually two cameras on the mast.

The telephoto Mastcam, or “Mastcam 100” has a 100-millimeter focal-length, f/10 lens with a 5.1° square field of view that provides enough resolution to distinguish a basketball from a football at a distance of seven football fields, or to read “ONE CENT” on a penny on the ground beside the rover.

Its other camera is the “Mastcam 34” and has a 34 mm, f/8 lens with a 15° square field of view.

Both of the cameras take 1200 x 1200 pixel (1.4 Megapixel) images using a 1600 by 1200 CCD detector. But each pixel of the CCD detectors are different size. Both cameras can acquire high definition 720p video at 10 frames per second.

The images where then were painstakingly stitched together to produce the first billion plus pixel view of the surface of Mars.  The 1.3 Gigapixel 360 degree image is available for everyone to view with pan and zoom here. If that is too much for you to handle, a scaled down version is available for download here.

“It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras’ capabilities,” said Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details.”

The CCD camera that I currently use takes 8.3 Megapixel images, so I could possible stitch together something similar, but I don’t think I have the same zest for doing it like this all sky photo.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

On the road again.

Nasa is getting raady to have Curiosity move towards Mount Sharp to continue its mission in Gale Crater.

Point Lake

Curiosity has spent the past six months testing its equipment by drilling for rock samples and analyzing them.  The tools and the laser drill have all checked out.

So now mission managers say they will soon command Curiosity to move to Mount Sharp.  The drive is shorter than most people’s morning commute, about 3.5 miles (8 km) from its current location.

Of course Curiosity, as the name implies, will not just be making a straight shot to the sight.  The rover will stop along the way to take samples and do other experiments.  Also, there is the lovely Martian winter and dust storms to contend with.

So in about 10 months to a year, Curiosity will have reached its destination.  10 months.  Really, I mean not traffic jams or anything and I can get there faster than that.  Oh well, I hope there is a Starbucks along the way.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman