Feeds

NASA's nuclear Mars tank prepares for high pucker-factor landing

Red Planet astro-truck to go down like none before it

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Pics NASA's Mars Science Laboratory team is working on a landing procedure for Red Planet rover Curiosity, due to touchdown on the dust world this weekend.

Curiosity landing infographic

A little to the right... bit more... bit more... bit more... perfect!

The US space agency said its flight team had started going through the motions for entry, descent and landing on Mars, while the craft itself performs its own tests and checks.

The nuclear space-tank that is Curiosity is heading to Earth's neighbouring planet to try to find signs of microscopic life, which may have lived there in the past, or proof that it ever could. Aside from the mega-bucks spent on the mission, and the high excitement of its purpose, this landing will have added fear factor: it'll be going down like no rover has ever gone down before.

Traditional Mars space-trucks including Sojourner, Spirt and Opportunity were dropped onto a lovely air-bag to cushion their fall, the de-facto landing experience for a rover.

But Curiosity is huge - the size of a small SUV - so air bags are not its thing. Instead, the rover will be lowered onto the Martian surface by a "sky crane", a brand new system that's bound to cause no end of nail biting.

Artist's concept of Curiosity

Star trucking, across the universe!

To add even more zest to the proceedings, NASA decided to reduce the landing zone for Curiosity, moving it closer to the very reassuringly-named Mount Sharp to cut down on time spent trundling across the surface. The previous landing zone for a rover was about 19km by 26km (11.8 miles x 16 miles). The new mountain-adjacent zone is just 6.4km by 19km (3.9 miles x 11.8 miles).

Which is why testing everything a few times before touchdown at 6.31am BST on Monday (10.31pm PDT Sunday) just might be a good idea.

The Mars Science Laboratory is busy turning on needed components and deciding upon final parameters (although these can be updated during the landing if need be). Onboard is the Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument Suite, which will record every detail of the plunge to help make future missions easier.

Once it reaches the surface, Curiosity is expected to wander about for one Martian year (98 Earth weeks), though previous rovers have lasted much longer than their initial mission's duration.

As well as trying to find evidence of microscopic life, the rover will also help scientists work out how to best set up home on the unforgiving planet: the space-truck is equipped with a weather station, an instrument for monitoring high-energy radiation and an instrument that can detect soil moisture and water-containing minerals in the the ground. All of which is scientifically valuable in a number of ways, but can also help plan for an eventual manned mission to Mars.

And if there's any life around that Curiosity doesn't like, it's always got its laser gun and robotic arm handy. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey
Science no match for religion, politics, business interests
So, just how do you say 'the mutt's nuts' in French?
Vital linguistic question interrupts LOHAN spaceplane mission
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
STEALTHY NANOROBOTS dress up as viruses, prepare to sneak into YOUR BODY
Cloaking techniques nicked from viruses tackle roadblocks on way to medical frontier
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.