|August 17, 2012||The Flying Fickle Finger Of Fate Award.||2 comments|
|August 17, 2012||Getting Stronger.||1 comments|
|August 16, 2012||Blogging On The Bee-Pic.||2 comments|
|August 16, 2012||Random Poll||5 comments|
|August 16, 2012||A Chance Of Rain?||1 comments|
|August 15, 2012||Medicare Myths.||2 comments|
|August 14, 2012||Kitteh Komputing.||2 comments|
|August 14, 2012||Postcards From Mars.||2 comments|
|August 13, 2012||Another Reminder.||3 comments|
|August 12, 2012||Mars Updates.||1 comments|
Top six myths about Medicare
This is an excellent article concerning the facts and myths about Medicare. Unfortunately, this NATIONALLY published article by Mark Miller from Reuters will not pass the Bee-Pic filter.
Fear not, simply click the link and be enlightened.
Over the past few sols, JPL painstakingly reprogrammed both of its cpus' radiation-hardened, electrically erasable programmable read-only memory, or EEPROMs, with new operating systems, testing each one carefully to make sure nothing went awry. The software was uploaded to Curiosity en route to Mars, so it's been waiting for the initial post-landing instrument checkouts to be completed.
We're well into Curiosity's Characterization Activity Phase (CAP), the month-long process of testing each and every portion of the rover. Now comes the instrument checkout with the new software. Curiosity's instruments will each be turned on to make sure that data comes back looking the way it should. The Alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument will both be powered up, APXS for a second, 20-minute test, DAN for the first time. DAN has an active and passive mode. In active mode DAN is capable of firing neutrons, but for now DAN will only be tried in passive mode. The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence instrument will get a checkout as well. Curiosity's radiation assessment detector (RAD) has already been powered up for several days.
A few images from Curiosity's memory have been downloading over the last few days, despite the fact that no new science has been done yet. JPL would like to empty Curiosity's 2GB memory and make room for more pictures. The image below (2nd image), looking southeast toward Mt. Sharp, shows mesas and buttes in the foothills of Mt. Sharp, with artificially-colored patches of sand in the foreground lying atop basalt rock. The mountain itself, the central peak of Gale Crater, is unfortunately cut off. These pictures were programmed before Curiosity actually arrived; new ones will be taken in a few sols to show the peak.
In addition to what's come out of Curiosity's post-landing checkout, there was a strip of images downloaded from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera. These images have been better-centered on Curiosity's location, now that we know more accurately where Curiosity is (3rd image).
JPL's Ashwin Vasavada pointed out a series of new overall firsts for the Mars Science Laboratory mission: the first ever panorama of Gale Crater, the first measurements of high energy radiation on another planet, the first movie of a spacecraft landing on another planet, the first images from a focusable camera on another planet, first images of an ancient Martian river channel. Those Martian river channels were first spotted by Mariner in 1979; we've waited 33 years to see them close-up.
During the Tuesday press conference, JPL's MSL avionics chief engineer Jim Donaldson quoted Alfred North Whitehead, who once wrote, "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them." He was talking about the evolution of thought that was necessitated within JPL by the design of the rover's electronics. Curiosity has roughly 1.2 million logic gates arrayed over several Field Programmable Gate Arrays. JPL engineers who had worked on the roughly 20,000 gates apiece for Cassini and the Mars Exploration Rovers were initially flattened by the size of the job for Curiosity, which required new management practices, new tools, new thinking and ultimately more engineers. Eventually, although the probe was delayed, JPL was able to rise to the challenge.
One new capability Curiosity has, a "dream mode", allows the rover to do several things while it's sleeping. In its sleep, Curiosity can turn heaters on and off, monitor vehicle health and in general prepare for the next sol's activity. The new mode allows things to take place in a way that keeps most systems quiescent and saves power for the next sol.
On Sol 13, a few sols from now, JPL will relay commands to turn each one of the rover's wheels in place. When that's done, two sols later, Curiosity will take its first drive, advancing a few meters, turning to reverse so that it avoids backing into unseen territory, and then moving back to its original spot.
Shortly after that, Curiosity will have about a two week window to do science before the engineering team reclaims the rover for a few more days to finish instrument checkout and test the arm. The rover will begin moving toward Mt. Sharp and ascend through the clay and sulphate layers at its base. The science team will be forced to choose one of six paths that have been identified through the buttes.
Or maybe not. A few hundred meters in the wrong direction, Curiosity seems to have landed next to some alluvial fans that suggest water flow. This kind of dilemma was completely expected by the MSL science team; they knew they'd see things once Curiosity landed that would force them to consider (and reconsider) roads not taken.
Here are the latest updates involving the remarkable mission.
Geology That Looks Like Death Valley
Curiosity has transmitted back to Earth its first high-resolution color mosaic that shows the environment around its landing site on Mars. It shows a Death Valley-like landscape that includes a northern section on the crater wall where valleys believed to have resulted from water erosion protrude into Gale Crater.
A southern perspective shows the areas the rover will explore, “including the rock-strewn, gravelly surface nearby, the dark dune field and the layered buttes and mesas of the sedimentary rock of Mount Sharp,” reports NASA in an announcement.
This 79-image mosaic was compiled from images taken within about an hour on August 8 with Curiosity’s 34-millimeter Mastcam, but doesn’t include all of the 130 1200-by-1200-pixel full-color photos it captured—some of which have yet to be returned to earth, resulting in the black patches.
Where the Sky Crane Descent Stage Crashed
Some of the first images Curiosity captured included a strange cloud that set the blogosphere abuzz about what it might be.
"We believe we've caught what is the descent stage impact on the Martian surface," Steve Sell, NASA's deputy operations lead for Curiosity's Mars landing, told reporters Friday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)in Pasadena, California, reports Space.com.
Now, with the high-res images in hand, geologists are looking closely at the crash site that exposes underlying materials as well as an upper layer made up of rock fragments embedded within finer substances.
Curiosity Gets a 'Brain Transplant'
This weekend the Mars rover has been getting what NASA calls a “brain transplant,” a new version of flight software that’s better suited for working on the surface of Mars, such as driving and using Curiosity’s powerful robotic arm and drill. It will also give the rover better image processing ability so it can avoid obstacles while driving as well as go on longer drives.
The software upgrade began the evening of August 10 and should be complete on August 13.
It’s a pretty big deal considering the remote update is happening from 350 million miles away and if something goes wrong it could mean the last contact anyone has with Curiosity.
"It has to work," Steve Scandore, a senior flight software engineer at JPL, told Computerworld. "You don't' want to be known as the guy doing the last activity on the rover before you lose contact."
Other Mars News
While Curiosity wasn’t involved, Mars enthusiasts might like knowing that a UCLA scientist has discovered plate tectonics exist on the planet.
"Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth," said An Yin, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and the author of the research.
Yin made the discovery by analyzing about 100 satellite images from THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System), an instrument on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and from the HIRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The surface of Mars is home to the longest and deepest system of canyons in the solar system—nearly 2500 miles long—and scientists have long wondered how it was formed. According to Yin, the long crack is where two plates abut.
"The shell is broken and is moving horizontally over a long distance. It is very similar to the Earth's Dead Sea fault system, which has also opened up and is moving horizontally," he said.
How to Keep up with Mars
NASA has dedicated an entire section of its website to its Mars mission and really everything you’d want to know about it is right there.
Otherwise, PCWorld’s Ian Paul has put together a thorough guide on how to track the Mars rover using a plethora of online tools. Check out Mars Rover Curiosity: A Complete Guide to Tagging Along Online.