Space

August 13, 2012

NASA Curiosity Mars rover installing smarts for driving

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity spent its first weekend on Mars transitioning to software better suited for tasks ahead, such as driving and using its strong robotic arm.

The rover’s “brain transplant,” occurred during a series of steps Aug. 10 through Aug. 13, installed a new version of software on both of the rover’s redundant main computers. This software for Mars surface operations was uploaded to the rover’s memory during the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft’s flight from Earth.

“We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission,” said Ben Cichy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. “The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don’t need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations.”

A key capability in the new version is image processing to check for obstacles. This allows for longer drives by giving the rover more autonomy to identify and avoid potential hazards and drive along a safe path the rover identifies for itself. Other new capabilities facilitate use of the tools at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.

While Curiosity is completing the software transition, the mission’s science team is continuing to analyze images that the rover has taken of its surroundings inside Gale Crater. Researchers are discussing which features in the scene to investigate after a few weeks of initial checkouts and observations to assess equipment on the rover and characteristics of the landing site.

The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft delivered Curiosity to its target area on Mars at 10:31:45 p.m., PDT, Aug. 5, which includes the 13.8 minutes needed for confirmation of the touchdown to be radioed to Earth at the speed of light.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on NASA’s Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks’ elemental composition from a distance, are the first of their kind on Mars. Curiosity will use a drill and scoop, which are located at the end of its robotic arm, to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into the rover’s analytical laboratory instruments.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site at 4.59 degrees south, 137.44 degrees east, places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

For more about NASA’s Curiosity mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA/JPL photograph

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet

Zoomed out – PIA19173 Ceres appears sharper than ever at 43 pixels across, a higher resolution than images of Ceres taken by the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has retur...
 
 
ATK

ATK completes installation of world’s largest solid rocket motor for ground test

ATK The first qualification motor for NASA’s Space Launch Systems booster is installed in ATK’s test stand in Utah – ready for a March 11 static-fire test. NASA and ATK have completed installing the first Spac...
 
 
ULA photograph

Third Lockheed Martin-built MUOS satellite launched, responding to commands

ULA photograph The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing successfully launched the third Mobile User Objective System satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, for the U.S. Navy at 8:04 p.m. Jan. 20, 2015, from Launch Complex 41 at...
 

 
ULA photograph

ULA successfully launches Navy’s Mobile User Objective System-3

ULA photograph The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing successfully launched the third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, for the U.S. Navy at 8:04 p.m. Jan. 20, 2015, from Launch Comple...
 
 

Aerojet Rocketdyne Propulsion supports launch, flight of third MUOS satellite

Aerojet Rocketdyne played a critical role in successfully placing the third of five planned Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellites, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, into orbit for the U.S. Navy. The mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, with five Aerojet...
 
 
LM-MUOS-satellite

U.S. Navy poised to Launch Lockheed Martin-built MUOS-3 satellite

The U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin are ready to launch the third Mobile User Objective System satellite, MUOS-3, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Jan. 20 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch win...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>