Feeds

Curiosity rover: While you humans were busy being hungover, this bot hit its 500th Martian day

The not-so-little NASA nuke tank that could

High performance access to file storage

While here on Earth we humans were recovering from celebrating another solar orbit with the usual fireworks, drunkenness, and canoodling, the Curiosity rover yesterday ticked over its 500th Martian day on the surface of the Red Planet.

Mount Sharp on Mars

Mount Sharp, Curiosity's next target

"Goals for 2014: Finish driving to Mars' Mount Sharp & do all the science I can," said the rover's Twitter feed, along with a picture of the ancient mountain targeting for investigation by the NASA team.

A Martian day is about 40 minutes longer than Earth's, and after Curiosity landed on August 6, 2012, the control team shifted onto Mars time to ensure they got the most out of the trundling tank. As day and night on the two planets slipped further and further apart, NASA controllers returned to Earth's 24-hour cycle, giving them back a normal family-friendly life.

Within two months of arriving on the dust world, Curiosity found the remains of a dried-up river bed and took samples showing that not only was water once flowing across the Martian surface but that it could have been pure enough to support organic life similar to that found on Earth.

Actually finding organic life is another matter, however. Because Mars has a severely depleted atmosphere, the levels of radiation on the surface are inimical to life, but the NASA team think if they can access deeper levels of the Martian surface exposed via erosion then the data could be very different.

The initial estimated mission length for Curiosity is 668 Martian days, or 23 months here on Earth, but based on the rover's performance to date – and the longer-than-expected operation of NASA's other Martian hardware – Curiosity looks set to be doing science on the Red Planet for much longer than that.

The Opportunity rover, for example, will celebrate its ten-year anniversary on Mars on January 25 this year – not bad for a machine that was designed to last for just 90 revolutions of Mars, or 92 Earth days.

NASA staff told El Reg that Curiosity was built to last three times longer than its planned mission; the space agency reckons the nuclear-powered rover could stay operational even longer than that by a good margin. With any luck the rover will be trucking and zapping its way across the unforgiving regolith for at least another 500 Martian days. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
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.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.