NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity

Who’s watching? We have a number of Dopers who are generally down on space exploration with the exception or robotic exploration, so I’m surprised there isn’t more excitement. Keeping your fingers crossed until it actually happens?

ETA: a space.com article: http://www.space.com/13736-nasa-mars-rover-curiosity-launch-preview.html

I heard a report about this mission on the World Service. It’s an amazing mission, but the method they’re using to get the Rover onto the Martian surface sounds destined to fail. Still, my fingers are massively crossed.

I just found NASA on the cable.

Thanks, levdrakon.

You’re welcome. I won’t be able to watch live on TV, but I’ll be keeping an eye on internet news, and I’m sure there will be lots of video after the fact.

It’s a real shame the recent Russian Phobos-Grunt mission can’t be saved, or looks almost certain to not be savable.

[slight hijack] Can someone confirm this, I read somewhere that 1 out of every 3 Mars mission fail on average. Is this true? Thanks.[/slight hijack]

Here’s an excellent video illustration of the landing procedure for those interested.

NASA’s Youtube channel has the launch video, great quality.

http://www.youtube.com/NASATelevision

My colleague’s husband headed up the team that designed the parachute (and has designed the previous parachutes for the Mars missions). He gave a talk to our intro Engineering students and it was extremely cool.

When he showed the demo of the sky crane technique I gasped.

More space.com: This is a recent timeline of Mars missions, with failures bolded. http://www.space.com/13558-historic-mars-missions.html

Didn’t check the fail rate, but it’s high. Hey, that planet’s really, reeeeally far away!

Wikipedia actually has a nice summary table on Mars landings. The total success rate is about 47%, although non-roving landers score only 30%. There is significant bias in these summary statistics, as many early missions (all flyby or stationary landers) failed at launch or in route, while you’ll note that the more recent types of missions such as rovers have an 80% rate of success, and in the case of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, vastly outlived their design specification lifetime and original mission objectives.

One thing to consider is that Mars is a uniquely difficult body to land upon, and landing failures comprise roughly a third of all failures. Mars, unlike the Moon or other small bodies, has a thin but definite atmosphere, but not one that is as dense as that of Earth or Titan. This means that the lander has to be protected from aeroheating from ram pressure and erosion during re-entry, but the dynamic pressure Q developed by the motion of the lander through the atmosphere is less for the same ground speed (by a squared factor) which makes designing an inflatable decelerator system (parachutes, ballutes) very challenging, and makes gliding re-entry modes nearly impossible. Large biconic and reconfigurable wing systems has been suggested, but the sheer amount of lifting surface required for a significant payload just won’t fit in current launch vehicle payload envelopes.

Of course, this doesn’t explain the software and system testing errors that have contributed to more recent failures such as the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander, which are arguably due to misguided cost-saving measures in verification testing and poor risk management processes. But in general, NASA has been far more successful than Russia/the former Soviet Union in both early and mor recent missions including Mariner 6, 7, and 9, and the Viking 1 & 2 landers, which was a nice turnaround from Venus missions, on which the Soviets had far more success and accomplishment with their Venera probes.

Stranger

Wow, somehow I was totally in the dark about this mission.

That rover is huge! I watched the videos linked previously and find it interesting that the rover will be able to take rock samples via drilling and then analyze the dust. I’m curious how that gets done, as far as cross contamination. Does anyone know? Is the sample instrument “cleaned” somehow?

The landing method seems awfully complicated. Hopefully everything will go as planned.

Apparently the landing procedure they’re using with Curiosity is what they think will be used to land the first astronauts on Mars, so there’s even more reason to hope it works as planned.

That was my impression when I saw the video. There are a LOT of things that have to work properly to not cause total mission failure - including EIGHT rocket engines that ALL have to fire properly during the final deceleration phase. Then the four-engine hover/skycrane mode? Wow. One assumes NASA’s engineers have done their homework, but still, I’ll be somewhat surprised if the rover makes it to the surface intact.

Well, these are things that if we’re going to ever be bad-ass interplanetary travelers, we’re going to have to get right sooner or later. They aren’t trying this technique out on puppies, at least. :slight_smile:

I’m always deeply interested in any probe or lander we fire off. Of course, the real excitement comes upon a successful landing here. August can’t come soon enough.

I wonder how long before James Cameron (or someone) teams up with IMAX and NASA to send a 3D IMAX camera probe to beam back a truly Martian experience.

A truly Martian experience for me would be the microphone that was on one of the landers that crashed. I wish they would do that again. To hear the Martian wind!

Well, an IMAX/NASA mission would include a microphone as well. And Morgan Freeman would also have to be aboard to narrate.

Nah, James Earl Jones.

“Hiss…John Carter, I am your Father. Hiss…”

JEJ would drive up the payload, but Mark Hamill’s doing voice work and I don’t think anyone will miss him.

Obligatory XKCD link “http://xkcd. com/695/”

Link broken 'cause of sadness :frowning:

Because that version is too sad: