Mars Science Laboratory – interesting links

“Curiosity” is the name of the Mars rover that landed successfully today. “Mars Science Laboratory” (MSL) is the mission name and describes what the rover is: A car-sized mobile lab. NASA launched the MSL spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Nov. 26, 2011. That is, it took Curiosity over 8 months to land on Mars. Here are a few links with more information on Curiosity:
  • The video “Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror” explains all the hurdles that had to be taken in order to land the rover safely. It’s quite complex! Two diagrams visualize all stages, from approaching Mars to landing. Finally, you can also hear William Shatner narrate in a video whose content is similar to “Seven Minutes”.
  • A photo shows how big Curiosity is compared to the other rovers.
  • Quoting @myrcurial: “Keep up with what the ‘old but not busted’ Mars Rover Opportunity is doing: marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/ – 8 years into her 90 day mission.” Alas, the companion rover Spirit seems dead.
  • First pictures from Curiosity. Still blurry (until the dust settles and higher-quality images can be sent) and dark (until the dust cover is removed).
  • Curiosity is powered by nuclear energy! Quoting the MSL fact sheet (PDF):
    The rover’s electrical power will be supplied by a U.S. Department of Energy radioisotope power generator. The multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator produces electricity from the heat of plutonium-238’s radioactive decay. This long-lived power supply gives the mission an operating lifespan on Mars’ surface of a full Mars year (687 Earth days) or more. At launch, the generator will provide about 110 watts of electrical power to operate the rover’s instruments, robotic arm, wheels, computers and radio. Warm fluids heated by the generator’s excess heat are plumbed throughout the rover to keep electronics and other systems at acceptable operating temperatures.
Other than that: Keep an eye on the Mars Science Lab mission pages, where NASA will continue to post all kinds of information.