Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The Martian marathon

Jupiter probe notwithstanding, the main focus for the big space agencies over this year has been the race to the Red Planet.

NASA, Russian space agency Roscosmos and the European Space Agency are all keen on all things Martian, and all of them undertook various steps in the journey to getting space-boots on the ochre sands.

The ESA had locked six men up in a fake spacecraft for 520 days to (sort of) prove that astronauts could possibly one day go to Mars. They emerged towards the end of this year, after their months of captivity and a four-day simulated descent to the 'surface' of the Red Planet.

NASA was also looking towards Mars, with the launch of its biggest and baddest rover yet, Curiosity, whose mission it is to find out if the Red Planet ever sustained microbial life and/or the elusive water that could make that possible.

The small-SUV-sized truck, boasting cameras, a robotic arm, a drill and a powerful laser for vapourising rocks/hostile alien life-forms, only had one delay of one day to its proposed lift off and took off without a hitch on 26 November.

Once up and away, the launch was a little less smooth, punctuated with repeated brief losses of data from the vehicle. However, the telemetry losses soon evened out and 36 minutes into the flight, NASA reported nice, clean info making its way to mission control.

Curiosity should be touching down in the Gale crater sometime in August 2012.

While NASA's Martian mission was coming together nicely, the Russians once more suffered an inexplicable smackdown for its Mars ambitions.

The dud Martian probe

The now-famous Phobos-Grunt probe was due to make a trip to Mars, circle the planet gathering data and then land on Martian moon Phobos to collect samples.

Hitching a ride with the craft was Chinese satellite Yinghuo-1, which should have been left in Mars orbit to study magnetic and gravity fields, ionosphere and surface details - China's first interplanetary mission.

The craft launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 8 November and reached orbit around Earth with no problems.

As soon as it got there though, the problems started. Phobos-Grunt's two engines failed to fire to send it on its way to the Red Planet, leaving the craft stuck circling the planet.

To add insult to injury, the Russians couldn't even figure out what went wrong, because they couldn't contact the probe.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.