NASA recently announced that the Mars rover Curiosity had collected the first sample from the interior of a rock on another planet. This in itself is a feat of engineering.
Being an unmanned, interplanetary mission, there are no opportunities to have an astronaut go out and repair the rover when there is a problem. The rover is also not controllable from a console here on earth, like a drone, since there is an appreciable communication delay. To control these long-range robots, a program must be uploaded and then activated. The amount of testing and the number of contingencies that must be accounted for is very large.
Curiosity shows us the first sample from the inside of a rock of another planet. (Source: NASA)
Now that the sample has been collected, it will be moved to a device that will sieve it and send particles to two instruments, Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin), and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM). The sieve will allow particles up to 150 microns across. The analysis will take some time to complete, but we will be waiting with bated breath as these rocks were judged to have a potentially interesting history, being of a sedimentary type. This might indicate the presence of water, and is a core area of investigation for the mission.
The results of the analysis should be very interesting and we will keep you up to date. The results will also guide the Curiosity science team in choosing the next target rock.
Gosh this is exciting. But with all of the funding to support STEM education, I'm wondering where to find all of the excitement surrounding this ongoing mission to Mars. I was too young to make any observations during the Apollo missions. Maybe instead of complaining about Beyonce and Adele, folks like me were complaining about all of the attention our culture was showering over The Beatles and Elvis while we were flying to the moon...
Good point, Bill. I, too, am wondering where the accompanying excitement has gone. As Louis points out, these are amazing feats of engineering. Maybe we need to send modern day counterparts of John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard up there to generate some excitement.
You may be onto something, Chuck. We still have astronauts on the International Space Station and the Shuttle program is not very ancient history. The recent jump by Felix Baumgartner got lots of press and coverage, especially through the social networks and even spawned a meme or two. Perhaps it was Red Bull's marketing and promotion that was key. I believe it was comedian Robert Klein that said he admired Neil Armstrong's restraint when his boot first touched the moon. Klein would have been tempted to shout "Coca-Cola!". Maybe we need a little more commercial sponsorship of space.
For the question about why isn't there more excitement about the rover doing this mining research, I can point to two things that I see. First, none of those responsible for this incredible design made a very big deal about how complex it is, or about how much effort was required. So the technologicly illiterate population assume that it was no harder than their cell phones and smart phones. The second reason is that a huge portion of the population is not able to focus their attention on it long enough to even grasp what is going on. I observe this daily, that many, or even most, of the somewhat younger generations are simply not trained to focus attention on anything for more than a second or two. And how in the world can a person understand something as complex as collecting a sample core from a rock if they are not able to pay attention for more than two seconds? Just look around and you will see what I am talking about.
Excellent points Chuck. But perhaps waxing nostalgic of the old Apollo days and personalities is a good example of how we only tend to remember the good stuff. Only the first Apollo mission was of any cultural importance. The rest of the program was mind bogglingly brave and amazing, but largely un-noticed. Only the luck (both bad and good) of Apollo 13 made anyone take notice again after the first landing. We are jaded as a society, and to be blunt, the heroes in the Apollo program just made it look easy and normal (it was anything but).
Now, there is nothing left of the news media (it's all entertainment). Our national leaders aren't leading. Public schools are not making the grade. Science and Engineering are hard curriculums in college and under-rewarded in industry (compared to the business degrees) and seen by the public as, well, boring and nerdy. Ironically, it's Engineering and Science that have given us EVERYTHING (our standard of living, our safety in a dangerous world, our ability to eat well and live so long).
It's not like this in other countries, and we will soon be surpassed by those in the world that are raising the next generation to invent and capitalize on technology, not just use it.
Sorry for the rant, but we do need to figure this out. Personally, stories like this still give me goose bumps.
Completely agree that more needs to be done to create value that links money spent on these kinds of programs, and results which justrify the investments. We know that the focus on science and engineering is important, but we need to get back to the successes that these programs produced in the past.
No apologies necessary, 3drob. I agree with your "rant." Good points, all. By the way, I wasn't waxing nostalgic for the old days -- I was waxing nostalgic for the really old days. Those were the names of Mercury astronauts, who came before Gemini astronauts, who came before Apollo.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
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