Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mars Rover Takes First Strides

If you have glanced at the news in the last couple week you will probably know that the Mars rover Curiosity has recently made a successful landing on the Red Planet. Yesterday it took its first steps and made a 4-5 meter test drive at its sizzling speed of 1.5 inches per second. I was curious why this speed was so slow, it's the same speed as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which are significantly smaller. I did a little research and came to the conclusion that the speed is a result of several factors. The rover may encounter some hairy terrain, so the motors are geared for power over speed and there really is no need to go fast. Curiosity can do an extraordinary amount of science in one place with all of its high tech tools, plus it has plenty of time to get where it needs to go.

The rover may have the speed of a small tortoise, but it is still an absolutely astounding engineering feat. It shows how far we have come since the last major Mars missions. This mission was by far the most complicated, especially with the crane landing system, but the people at NASA and JPL have managed to set it down safely. As far as I know the only damage to rover is a broken wind sensor.

I am very excited to see what Curiosity uncovers in the coming years. We all know it is not going to encounter any large green aliens, but it could find evidence of microbial life, which would be almost as big. Curiosity could be a major key in answering the question; are we alone or not? Until that time we can only speculate and root on the car sized rover that is chugging along 40 million miles away.


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