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Sunday, August 5, 2012

MSL Curiosity scheduled to land in 3 and a half hours.

NASA and JPL are gearing up for the most difficult phase of any mission to Mars: EDL (Entry, Decent, and Landing), a.k.a. "7 Minutes of Terror".

Alex and I are sitting on the floor of his apartment right now watching the live stream from NASA, and we couldn't be more excited. This mission has reminded us of our passion for Mars, and our long-term committment to Red Colony. We can't wait to release the new version of the website, and we are thrilled to witness NASA's most exciting mission to Mars in history.


RedColony Twitter

Curiosity Rover's Twitter (complete with 15min delay)

Interview with the engineers: here.

We're wishing NASA all the best! Stay tuned on Twitter for updates!

- posted by Jim @ 20:56 EST

(permanent link)

Monday, August 6, 2012

MSL Curiosity LANDS!

JPL has yet again succesfully landed a rover on the surface of Mars! This time Curiosity isn't the size of a breadbox but a Mini-Cooper. Mission control is just ecstatic right now as Alex and I watch the NASA TV stream. The SkyCrane, that everyone was worried about, worked flawlessly! See the JPL and Curiosity twitter feeds for continuing up-to-date information.

Alex and I want to congratulate everyone who has worked on the MSL Project! You have done an amazing job!

- posted by Jim @ 20:56 EST

(permanent link)

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

(permanent link)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mars One, a one-way trip to Mars

Mars One, a Dutch Enterprise, wants to send people "to establish the first human settlement on Mars by April 2023. The first crew of four astronauts emigrate to their new planet from Earth, a journey that takes seven months. A new team will join the settlement every two years. By 2033 there will be over twenty people living, working and flourishing on Mars, their new home."

The crew will be selected by a worldwide lottery, which would select 40 people from whom the crew will be selected. Funding for the endevour could be found by marketing the crew-selection process, Bas Lansdorp, the founder of Mars One, says. The presence of Paul Römer as an "ambassador" for Mars One and co-creator and first producer of "Big Brother" and "The Big Donor Show" lends credibility to that idea.

The technology they plan to use provides a start, but many more details will have to be hammered out before a working system. Learning the details as they put them out will be an exciting process and we will defiantly post them as we find them out.

Thanks to Steven H. for telling me about Mars One.

In other news, with all of the attention placed on Curiosity, let us not forget the MER rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. While Spirt has been unresponsive since May 25, 2011, Opportunity has been humming right along and racking up a whopping 34.7km (21.6mi) on its odometer. "Oppy's" APXS and other instruments are still working and we're excited to continue to bring you news about these 8-year-old robots exploring the Red Planet.

- posted by Jim @ 19:33 EST

(permanent link)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ultra-Low Power Wireless Networks / Another first for Curiosity (and Will.I.Am)

"Ultra-low power consumption is one of the most formidable challenges faced by the next generation of wireless sensing systems," said Jingxian Wu, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Arkansas. "These systems will need to operate without interruption for multiple years and with extremely limited battery capacity or limited ability to scavenge energy from other devices. This is why the NSF was interested in our research." The type of network that Dr. Wu &co is working on could be extremely useful for a mission to Mars, and beyond, as power is scarce and reliability is a must in space. The uniqueness of the design being pursued by the team is that instead of trying to combat distortion and noise, embrace it. "If we accept the fact that distortion is inevitable in practical communication systems, why not directly design a system that is naturally tolerant to distortion?" Wu said. "Allowing distortion instead of minimizing it, our proposed distortion-tolerant communication can operate in rate levels beyond the constraints imposed by Shannon channel capacity." The Shannon-Hartley theorem is a theorem relating the channel capacity, or transmission rate, at a given bandwidth, and hence energy required to transmit a message, in the presence of noise.

Catching up on Curiosity, on Aug. 28, Will.I.Am's "Reach for the Stars" became the first song to be played from another the surface of another planet. Both Will.I.Am and NASA Administrator Bolden addressed a crowd of students in Pasadena, Calif. "Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through STEAM [Science, Technology, Education, and Math] education. I know my purpose is to inspire young people, because they will keep inspiring me back," Will.I.Am said.

- posted by Jim @ 00:00 EST

(permanent link)

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