Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

A new approach to endpoint data protection

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.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
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.
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.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?