Feeds

Curiosity preps for first Martian road trip

Rover gets ready to roll three metres from landing site

Application security programs and practises

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has wiggled its four corner wheels for the first time to get ready for its first drive across the surface of the Red Planet.

Curiosity's rear right wheel

The $2.5bn six-wheeled Martian nuclear truck has been sat still on its landing site for the last two weeks, but is now gearing up to trundle out on its mission to find signs of life – and the agency said that a busted sensor was not going to get in its way.

Curiosity has been investigating the Martian weather and checking the on its surface while it prepped for its first drive, checking air and ground temperature, air pressure, wind and other variables every hour.

The rover's weather station readings sent back to Earth revealed that one of its wind sensors was broken, sending back nonsense data to NASA.

"One possibility is that pebbles lofted during the landing hit the delicate circuit boards on one of the two REMS booms," said Curiosity deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada. "We will have to be more clever about using the remaining wind sensor to get wind speed and direction."

Even with the trashed sensor, the space agency has determined that so far (over the past two weeks) the air temperature has swung from -2 to -75 degrees Celsius, while ground temperatures between the afternoon and the pre-dawn morning can plunge from 3 to -91 degrees Celsius. NASA plans to use Curiosity to give a daily Mars weather report online.

A Russian instrument on board the rover is also prospecting for water in the top three feet of soil under the vehicle, using the same technology that's used to find oil on Earth.

"Curiosity has begun shooting neutrons into the ground," said Igor Mitrofanov of Space Research Institute, Moscow, the principal investigator for the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons or DAN. "We measure the amount of hydrogen in the soil by observing how the neutrons are scattered, and hydrogen on Mars is an indicator of water."

Now that the rover has got the data from the landing site, it's time to move on to a new patch of soil in its search for evidence that water is or once was on Mars. Late last night, NASA sent Curiosity the commands to start its first drive today, going forward three metres and then backing up a little less than that, Mars Space Lab mission manager Mike Watkins said.

If Curiosity manages that manoeuvre, it'll be ready to take off across the planet for real in three or four days, after it completes a few more tests and activities at the landing site. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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
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?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.