Computers

Curiosity about Mars – NASA’s Rover lands safely

On August 5th, the Mars Rover named Curiosity landed on the planet Mars.

Since the first flyby of The Red Planet by the U.S. probe Mariner 4, the American space program commonly known as NASA, has launched many space aircrafts in an attempt to learn more about our galactic neighbor.

The most recent launch has been deemed successful thus far with some of the NASA engineers calling the landing ‘beautiful.’ The nail biting process consisted of pinpoint precision and was assisted by not only supersonic parachutes and retro rockets but also two high performing HPC clusters named Galaxy and Nebula. These two clusters powered by Dell PowerEdge servers were able to analyze data on the Red Planet’s surface, allowing Curiosity to land. It took fourteen minutes for the transmission to reach scientists, where the successful seven minute decent and landing ended with cheers, high fives and hugs from those back on earth.

Curiosity is the largest Mars exploration rover so far, being five times as massive and twice as long as the previous Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers. With six large wheels to carry this one ton machine over the rocky Mars terrain, Curiosity will begin its six hundred and eighty seven earth days (one Martian year) journey on Mars. Outfitted with the most sophisticated technology ever sent to another planet, Curiosity has been sent to determine whether or not Mars could or did support life, study its climate and determine whether there may be any future missions to the Red Planet involving humans. The Mars Rover will gather this information by traveling at three hundred feet per hour and using a number of different instruments designed and chosen back in April of 2004.

Curiosity is also equipped with seventeen cameras to help with navigation, date collection and image processing. These high resolution cameras will look for items of interest and then Curiosity uses an inferred laser to vaporize a section the area of interest and examine the composition. If the composition data is worth continued examination, the Mars Rover will then use a microscope and an X-ray spectrometer to get a closer look. In some cases, Curiosity may even drill into the item of interest (most likely a rock) and gather a sample, to be examined by a laboratory located inside the rover.

Once Curiosity has finished a round of vigorous tests done by NASA (a part of landing protocol,) the Mars Rover will be on its way to discovering the Red Planet’s secrets.

Image Credit: NASA HQ on Flick

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