Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Curiosity: A rover with a mission

     $100,000,000. That is how much it would cost to send your car to Mars, but even though the Mars rover is the size and weight of a car, does not mean that it costs $100 million to send it there. In reality, it costs about $820,000,000 Getting the rover to the planet is actually the second most expensive part of the journey.  $645,000,000 was spent on design and development, and about $75,000,000 to control the rover back here on earth.
     Now, NASA does not want to spend $820 million on a rover without a purpose. In all, Curiosity has 8 Goals:
  1. Find out what is in and how many organic carbon compounds are there on Mars.
  2. Find out how much carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur there is on Mars.
  3. Find out if there is or was life on Mars
  4. "Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials"
  5. "Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils"
  6. Discover the evolution of the Martian atmosphere.
  7. Find out the distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide on Mars
  8. Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic radiation, cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons.
     "Curiosity rover has a mass of 899 kg (1,980 lb) including 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments. The rover is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height." It is also powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. A thermoelectric generator gets its power from radioactive decay. This generator has been used on the Viking 1 and 2 probes. Curiosity can communicate through an X band transmitter and receiver for communicating with Earth and an Electra-lite Software Defined Radio for communicating with Mars Orbiters.
     If NASA is going to achieve all of those goals, Curiosity is going to need a lot of tools."The MastCam system provides multiple spectra and true-color imaging with two cameras.[41] The cameras can take true-color images at 1600×1200 pixels and up to 10 frames per second hardware-compressed, video at 720p (1280×720)." It also has a Chemistry and Camera Complex (ChemCam) that "is actually two different instruments combined as one: a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope. The purpose of the LIBS instrument is to provide elemental compositions of rock and soil, while the RMI will give ChemCam scientists high-resolution images of the sampling areas of the rocks and soil that LIBS targets. The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample from up to 7 meters (23 ft) away, vaporizing a small amount of it with about 50 to 75 5-nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then observing the spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock. The ChemCam has the ability to record up to 6,144 different wavelengths of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light." Curiosity has Navigation Cameras, a Rover Environmental Monitoring Station which measures humidity, pressure, temperatures, wind speeds, and ultraviolet radiation. It also has Hazard avoidance Cameras, Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, radiation detecter, and a robotic arm.
     NASA has spent TONS of time and money on this rover, I wish them luck on their 23 month voyage.