Feeds

NASA's nuclear laser tank will hunt down any life on Mars

Seriously though: How excellent if there was some

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

While tales of UFOs and alien abductions are still being greeted with snorts of derision, NASA really is searching the skies for signs of extraterrestrial life, though it's not little green (or grey) men the agency is looking for, it's signs of life - most probably not above the microbial level - on Mars.

The Red Planet has been an enticing option for life outside of this planet for both scientists and popular culture. Its proximity and similarity to Earth has led to all sorts of speculations, from Marvin the Martian to the famous 'Face on Mars' photo taken by the Viking 1 orbiter in 1976.

Now, the American space agency is sending its biggest and best Mars rover to try to discover if there was, is, or could be the potential for microbial life on the planet.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will carry Curiosity, a rover five times as large as, and carrying 10 times more scientific instruments than, the previous Mars rovers Spirit or Opportunity.

The space truck is the size of a small SUV, has its very own fancy propulsive launcher to land it on the planet and carries cameras, a robotic arm, a drill and a laser capable of vaporising rock.

In fact, there's so much gear on the rover that it can't be powered by solar panels, oh no, it needs a plutonium-powered 'space battery' to run all its gizmos and gadgets.

NASA is launching the MSL on an Atlas V booster on November 26, a day later than originally intended, but Curiosity won't reach the surface of Mars until sometime in August next year after a journey of around 354 million miles.

On arrival at Mars the complex "aeroshell" - the round space tin in which the rover and its rocket-skycrane landercraft are packaged - will make a screaming entry into the thin atmosphere of the red planet, during which it will scrub off velocity using "S-curve" manoeuvres much as space shuttles used to do when plunging down through Earth's atmosphere. The aeroshell will slow itself further in the final minutes using a parachute, then release the rover and its "upper stage" lander, a sort of flying rocket bedstead which will use retro thrust to bring itself down to a hover above the surface and lower the rover down on cables in "sky crane" mode the last few metres. Lines detached, the sky-crane upper stage will then use the last of its fuel to take itself off somewhere and crash safely away from Curiosity's landing point.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms
Is that an ARMADILLO in your PANTS or are you just pleased to see me?
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.