Community > Destination: Alpha Centauri

Mars Rover Curiosity Has 'Dreams' on Red Planet


Buster's Uncle:

--- Quote ---Mars Rover Curiosity Has 'Dreams' on Red Planet
By Mike Wall | – 55 mins ago.. .

If androids dream of electric sheep, what do Mars rovers dream about? Their fiery descents through the Red Planet's atmosphere? Or maybe their Earthly home, so many million miles away?
The seemingly silly question is worthy of a few minutes' consideration, for researchers revealed Tuesday (Aug. 14) that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on the Red Planet has a "dream mode." This state allows the 1-ton robot to save energy while performing vital functions, scientists said.
"It's sort of the reptile brain for the rover," Curiosity chief avionics engineer Jim Donaldson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters Tuesday.
"So what it allows us is maintaining a look at the health of the vehicle while the compute element is turned off," Donaldson added. "And it allows turning on heaters, on actuators and so on, in preparation for the next science activity." [Gallery: Curiosity's 1st Photos of Mars]
Curiosity, the heart of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, touched down inside the Red Planet's Gale Crater on the night of Aug. 5. The six-wheeled rover's main task is to determine if Mars is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life.

 Curiosity's prime mission is slated to last about two years, but its plutonium power source could keep the rover roaming for considerably longer than that if no key parts break down, researchers have said.
Still, the Curiosity rover team is keen to conserve energy whenever and wherever they can. And that's where "dream mode" comes in.
"A lot of times we do stuff with the rover computer off, because it saves energy for us," said rover mission systems manager Mike Watkins of JPL. "By using our reptile brain here in dream mode, it allows us to do just enough activities to stay alive and monitor what's going on when we're asleep."

Curiosity's main science target is the base of Mount Sharp, the mysterious 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) mountain that rises from the center of Gale Crater. Mars-orbiting spacecraft have spotted signs of clays and sulfates in Mount Sharp's lower reaches, suggesting the mound's base was exposed to liquid water long ago.
While Cscientists will likely order Curiosity to spend lots of time poking around Mount Sharp's foothills, the mountain's slopes are so gentle that the rover might be able to climb all the way to the top, given enough time, researchers have said.
So maybe that's something else Curiosity is dreaming about — the amazing Red Planet vista it could get from the top of Mount Sharp.

--- End quote ---

So, it has a basic Tier One Fission Reactor? :D

I see with Recent Budget Cuts NASA couldn't afford a Quantum Chamber :D

Buster's Uncle:
I gather that it's just barely a reactor at all; it puts out about 100 watts.

They use Radioisotope Thermal Generators; simply using the heat generated by nuclear decay to generate electricity.

Far simpler than nuclear reactors. I was simply making a joke.

What is sad is that I heard that the fuel for these reactors hardly anyone can produce. The New Horizons mission inbound to the Pluto system (which is REALLY turning out to be a much cooler place than anyone imagined), for instance, had to go out with less nuclear fuel than was originally intentioned. We do not have the capability since the Reagan era to produce the fuel, and the Russians have very precious little of it that we have to borrow. It is also the reason why the JUNO mission to Jupiter is solar powered when really you need RTGs way out there.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version