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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Updates on Curiosity, the world, and Red Colony

A quick update on the new Red Colony: user adminstration (registration, login, reset password, acls) and article and news creation, versioning, and viewing are completed. Currently I'm working on building the new discussion board.

NASA has released images taken from MARDI showing 1504 frames over the last six minutes of the decent as seen from the bottom of Curiosity. impreprex1979 on YouTube has made a stunning video from them.

The HiRISE camera on MRO has given us a beautiful image of Curiosity descending, just as it did for Phoenix back in 2008. HiRISE has also given us a bird's-, nay satellite's-,eye-view of the landing site.

On Aug. 16, a software update was completed on Curiosity. The update replaced the flight code with the code to move around and control instruments. The 10-day gap from landing was the result of engineers testing and checking the rover, and 4 days to complete the software upgrade.

The next big event in Curiosity's life was the first chance to use the rock-blasting laser mounted on the rover, called ChemCam. The rock chosen for the honour, dubbed "Coronation", isn't suspected to be anything other than the "standard" Martian rock, but offered a smooth face and was at the right distance. Coronation was shot 30 times over 10 seconds in order to heat a small, pin-sized, area of rock to allow a spectrometer attached to a telescope to discern the composition of the rock.

After zapping rocks with the laser mounted on it, Curiosity took its first steps on Aug. 22. The landing site, dubbed Bradbury after the famous author, now has approximately 7 meters of Curioisty's footprints (which spell out "JPL" in Morse Code in order to ascertain distance traveled and slippage) after traveling 4.5m, turning 120° and backing up 2.5m.

Most recently, on Aug. 27, Curiosity has returned the first broadcast of a human voice from another planet. A recording of the NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, was played back from Mars. Mr. Bolden ends his message with "Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future."

Red Colony would also like to offer our condolences to the Armstrong family for their loss on Aug. 25. Neil Alden Armstrong passed due to "complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures." There is not much that we can say that hasn't already been said about a man who was great not only during his tenure at NASA, but also as a person, community leader, husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend, so I will leave you with the ending of a statement put out by Mr. Armstrong's family:

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

- posted by Jim @ 23:15 EST