Friday, August 17, 2012

Curiosity Rover - upcoming events

Curiosity has been on the Martian surface now for a couple of weeks, but they have been a long way from idle weeks. JPL engineers have been testing Curiosity’s test instruments, which have passed all test and are working perfectly.

Next tests will involve the wheels which will involve position alignment and movement. These should be completed over the next few days. Soon afterwards, Curiosity will be instructed to un-ship its' laser and move to its' first target which is a rock with the designation N165.

This rock will be used quite literally for target practice for the laser which will shoot N165 with 30 laser blasts in a 10 second period. JPL hopes the laser will disintegrate a piece of the rock for spectrometer analysis of the rock's composition.

Curiosity recently underwent a complete software overhaul.  NASA/JPL needed to swap out the software that ran the rover during flight/landing phases was not appropriate for roaming the Martian surface.  Since the rover did not have the memory resources to hold and execute both programs, they needed to be swapped before Curiosity could begin exploration duties.   The procedure took four days because of the distance involved, plus extreme caution had to be taken not to overload the rover and lose communications or worse.  

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