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Mars or bust!
November 26, 2011 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Curiosity launched today and is on its way to Mars!
posted by Tom-B (60 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let's hope it doesn't kill the cat!
posted by candasartan at 10:11 AM on November 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Can't wait until it arrives.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:11 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That looks like a very high acceleration launch... Or am I crazy?
posted by Chuckles at 10:13 AM on November 26, 2011


America rocks, I love you guys!
posted by Tom-B at 10:17 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are we there yet?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:17 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Follow the rover on Twitter! http://twitter.com/marscuriosity
MarsCuriosity Curiosity Rover
I HAVE LIFTOFF!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:17 AM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I watched the whole launch -- it was great. There is also a JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) YouTube channel for those of us who don't know much about this but are completely fascinated and excited, like me.
posted by theredpen at 10:18 AM on November 26, 2011


I am so following that robot's twitter on it's way to Mars.

hey guess what, in the 21st Century that sentence makes total sense!
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on November 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


Here's hoping it's at least half as successful as Spirit and Opportunity were.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:20 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


nooo, it should be I HAS A LIFTOFF.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 10:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Get there safe, little dude! Find the giant sentient subterranean worms.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is all so exciting.

It's a shame there's not more a popular groundswell in interest about things like this.

I mean, we just sent another robot into space! Everything went exactly according to plan with the launch, and our engineers are doing things which nobody else on the planet are doing.

Truly amazing. I look forward to seeing the successful landing and having yet another plastic pal who's fun to be with roaming around on another planet.
posted by hippybear at 10:34 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


little dude?
posted by damo at 10:34 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's also pretty amazing what they're doing with only 110 watts.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:39 AM on November 26, 2011


The coolest about the launch was the 3D computer display that was displaying, in real time, what the rocket and craft was doing once it reached orbit, parked for a while and then angled itself for the burn to leave orbit.

Is that displaying anywhere to the public?! 'Cause that would be really cool to check up on over the next year.

Also, these photos of the checkout and mating of the various pieces are pretty awesome too.

That descent to Mars is going to be completely badass if it works. Tests say that it will.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:41 AM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am Curious (Rover)
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is so cool. My daughter got into robotics through the First competition in high school, and is studying engineering at a school a few miles from NASA. She's totally involved in the NASA & robotics culture down there, and her dream job is to design and build these things. Right now, she's debugging software for the avionics industry in an internship, and loving her job.

When I was 19, I was hanging out at the lake. I think there's hope for these kids.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:46 AM on November 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I sure hope there is a better reason than this for the strange tread pattern on the wheels.
posted by Chuckles at 10:52 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yet another probe launched without an optical microscope package ... and I still don't understand why.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:55 AM on November 26, 2011


Oh damn! That launch video stopped right when it was about to get interesting. They had a live camera on the side of the rocket showing "payload fairing separation" and they were firing up the second stage payload engines and about to blast off right in front of the cam. Anyone find Part 2 of this launch video yet?
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:58 AM on November 26, 2011


This is great. The earlier rovers were one of my strongest experiences of emotional investment in a robot-like thing, I think in part because so much of it was just text...
posted by Mngo at 11:01 AM on November 26, 2011


I love the bird that flies into the frame just before liftoff and then hightails it out of there.
posted by emelenjr at 11:11 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I found Part 3, separation of the payload from the second stage. But no Part 2. Darn it, that's the coolest part, seeing a close up view of a second stage rocket blasting off from above the atmosphere.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:11 AM on November 26, 2011


I am so following that robot's twitter on it's way to Mars.

hey guess what, in the 21st Century that sentence makes total sense!


Not with that apostrophe, it doesn't.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:20 AM on November 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


There's a "hand lens imager" optic that goes down to a 14 micrometers per pixel, ZenMasterThis. Now you're not going to pick out small cells with that but they could pick up fairly chunky ones and certainly colonies or anything ambulatory.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:24 AM on November 26, 2011


Chuckles: "I sure hope there is a better reason than this for the strange tread pattern on the wheels."

Chuckles, the Wikipedia page for MSL says "That pattern is used by on-board cameras to judge the distance travelled."
posted by theredpen at 11:26 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm delighted to find that Dan Maas is still animating the rover publicity trailers.

I'm also also ecstatic that someone has posted a bootleg of the original MER animation with Lenny Kravitz over the launch (also Holst for the landing and Goldberg Variations for tooling about on Mars.). The official version has the high quality video, but no music. The attempt to get the rights fell through; Mr. Kravitz was cool with it, I'm told, but not the label. :( When you watched it in a room full of space nerds, the energy was amazing. The heady mixture of super-realistic animation, rock-and-roll and a journey to Mars made us all feel like we were going to conquer the solar system.

Godspeed, Curiosity!
posted by BrashTech at 11:58 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally the giant atomic robots equipped with lasers are going to mars.

I will plug NASA's google+ page.
posted by selenized at 12:03 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm also also ecstatic that someone has posted a bootleg of the original MER animation with Lenny Kravitz over the launch (also Holst for the landing and Goldberg Variations for tooling about on Mars.).

If you're going to post any MER / music mashups, you simply have to admit that this one is the best of any which have appeared over the years.
posted by hippybear at 12:07 PM on November 26, 2011


Sorry, should have clarified; the link isn't to a mashup, but to the original animation as it first circulated on the Cornell campus. NASA couldn't get the music rights for the actual release, sadly.
posted by BrashTech at 12:25 PM on November 26, 2011


It's a shame there's not more a popular groundswell in interest about things like this.

I mean, we just sent another robot into space! Everything went exactly according to plan with the launch, and our engineers are doing things which nobody else on the planet are doing.
One thing I don't like about Neil deGrasse Tyson is that he's always going on about how important it is to send people into space. I actually think sending robots is a lot better, especially given the weight requirements -- not just for the person but for the entire life support system.

People always say that humans can "solve problems" but so can robots now, and humans can't fix themselves if they get a broken arm or something.

I also think sending robots into space is pretty interesting on it's own.
Yet another probe launched without an optical microscope package ... and I still don't understand why.
Weight is a pretty precious commodity on these things. You can't just add an extra two pounds because you think a microscope would be a cool edition at the last miniute.

It's likely scientists came up with a list of priorities for research, and the experiments that would be most compatable with the least weight probably were added.
posted by delmoi at 12:25 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't gotten around to making the post that I had planned when I first saw it, so now seems like a good time to recommend that you all go view this animation.

It's almost 12 minutes long but worth every second. It takes Curiosity from cruising into Mars's atmosphere, through entry, decent, and landing, and through its first few days of surface operations. If I go on about how I find it to be starkly beautiful and a source of great joy you'll get sick of my blathering, so let me just repeat — go watch this.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:30 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I like to do with space missions is see how long I can keep things within my frame of reference. So about a few minutes after launch the telemetry guy says:

"We're thirty two nautical miles in altitude" - okay, I can understand that
"fifty four miles down range" - so we've leveled off and are moving kinda horizontal
"traveling at forty-nine ..... hundred miles per hour". WTF!!!!!
posted by benito.strauss at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing the descent video for this rover, and it is insane. The thing weighs 2,000lbs, so the usual bouncing balloon landing system they used for previous ones wont work. So they have a rocket powered crane to lower it to surface instead.

Not bigger parachutes or bigger balloons, just instead make a hovering, rocket powered, crane that lowers the rover to the surface (and use the same system to take some low altitude optical images of the surrounding terrain while it's there, so they can get some starting points for destinations), and then detaches and flies away.

I bet the person who thought of this has the coolest beer dispenser ever in their house.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:50 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that landing system is wild, but it has lots of precedent. Soviet manned spacecraft used retrorockets during landings. The craft descended on a parachute, then the retros fired at the very last moment before the craft hit the ground. I remember seeing this used by the Soviet army, they'd parachute drop tanks from airplanes and then the retros would keep them from smashing down too hard on the ground.

Now what I'm really hoping for, is that this is going to be another Mars Rover type project, intended for a short mission and then it just keeps going for years.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:02 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What worries me about that landing system is, what if it lands on a rock, and falls on its side?

What was nice about how Spirit and Opportunity did it was that it didn't matter. It would right itself before opening and letting the rover out. Moreover, it would roll until it found a level place, and only then open and let the rover out.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:35 PM on November 26, 2011


Get there safe, little dude! Find the giant sentient subterranean worms.

Relevant.
posted by The Tensor at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2011


benito, orbital speed is seventeen five.

That looks like a very high acceleration launch... Or am I crazy?

GLW is about 60 tons vs. 2000 for a Shuttle. Time to orbit looks about the same, though. I would say it's able to visibly accelerate a bit faster, but I don't have the time to do the math.

I will plug NASA's google+ page.

You know, I was pretty disappointed with the comments, so I turned mine back off.

It's likely scientists came up with a list of priorities for research, and the experiments that would be most compatable with the least weight probably were added.

It's basically a long bidding process, with the advocates for any given instrumentation arguing for inclusion, and a committee at the top makes the (often heartbreaking) decisions. It isn't just weight, though.

The part that bugs me is that this rover is a return to the all-eggs-in-one-basket process, versus the lightweight, experimental, cheap-enough-to-make-two approach of Pathfinder and then Spirit/Opportunity. In a sense, if we can handle crewed launch, we ought to be exacting enough to be able to do this, but history has shown otherwise. I don't know what the prospects are for any follow-on missions should this one fail. And Mars is a cruel mistress.

intended for a short mission and then it just keeps going for years.

That depends on a safe landing, for starters, but if it works out it is very likely that they will seek funding to do continuing science missions. This might, however, be at the cost of continued operations for Opportunity or some other mission. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter seems to have the throughput for more operations, but the Earth-based Deep Space Network is strained.
posted by dhartung at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the brochure says the Atlas/MSL hits Mach 1 34.6 seconds after launch, compared to:

Delta 2 (GRAIL) - 30 seconds
Space Shuttle - 40-50 seconds
Atlas launches to GEO - 80 seconds

So yeah, fairly energetic!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:01 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the bidding process, Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet by Steve Squyers (chief investigator for the MER program) is a really good insight into what goes into the rover program and how politics is as much of an influence as orbital mechanics on whether you go to Mars or not.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this something I would have to live on earth to appreciate?
posted by spitbull at 3:10 PM on November 26, 2011


benito, orbital speed is seventeen five.

Yep, completely outside my frame of reference. Four nine is "insanely fast", and seventeen five is also "insanely fast", although it's more than three times as insanely fast as four nine.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:11 PM on November 26, 2011


One of my favorite parts of the MER video is the way the rotational motion is arrested. The physics is simple conservation of momentum -- the weights are on a string and wound around the spacecraft body, but the string is not attached to it. When the weights are released they are pulled out by the F=ω2r force and since the moment of inertia goes up, the entire assembly slows down. The length of the string is careful computed so that it comes free from the body exactly when the angular velocity ω goes to zero and the weights fly straight out away from the space vehicle. Thomson's "Introduction to Space Dynamics" has a bunch of worked examples.

For fast rocket launches, I'm not sure anything compares to the Sprint -- 0 to Mach 10 in 5 seconds, or about 100g during boost. The launch videos are unreal. You'd swear they are sped up by a factor of 10.
posted by autopilot at 3:22 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love it how they give Curiosity personality in the tweets.
posted by hot_monster at 3:46 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Curiosity, get your ass to Mars.
posted by nev at 6:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: "Get there safe, little dude! Find the giant sentient subterranean worms."

Oh, sandworms aren't sentient. Well, except for Leto II, but that's a unique case.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:17 PM on November 26, 2011


Godspeed
posted by lester at 7:54 PM on November 26, 2011


autopilot: Yeah, there's no inherent reason that a rocket has to be slow. It's just that the ones we usually watch on TV are the Shuttles or Saturn Vs. The basics come down to simple physical equations of payload and thrust.
* Nike Hercules
* Patriot Missile
Both SAM (surface-to-air missile, i.e. non-orbital) interceptors, so they don't have a lot of payload and they need to be fast.
posted by dhartung at 8:50 PM on November 26, 2011


Rockets have been fast from the beginning.

The German V-2 traveled at a maximum speed of 1600 miles per second on its way up, and 800 miles per second on its way down. When Pynchon writes about how the explosion happened before you heard the rocket, he wasn't kidding.
posted by hippybear at 10:18 PM on November 26, 2011


metres per second
posted by Wolof at 10:28 PM on November 26, 2011


yeah, meters
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 PM on November 26, 2011


gaaah. yes, of course. I'm an idiot at times.
posted by hippybear at 10:37 PM on November 26, 2011


I guess we've all just got so used to watching the rocket equivalent of long-haul trucks pulling on to the freeway that we've forgotten about racing motorcycles.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 AM on November 27, 2011


You can't just add an extra two pounds because you think a microscope would be a cool edition at the last miniute.

It's basically a long bidding process, with the advocates for any given instrumentation arguing for inclusion, and a committee at the top makes the (often heartbreaking) decisions.

Yeah, I get that. It's just that everyone's been doing all these inconclusive, indirect life-search experiments for decades now and saying things like, "well, yeah, this could be a sign of metabolic activity ... then again maybe not" I kinda figured some of the higher-ups by now would've said "oh for fuck's sake just put a damn microscope on it already!"

But then, I'm not on the selection committee.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:00 PM on November 27, 2011


Metafilter: Is this something I would have to live on earth to appreciate?
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:05 PM on November 27, 2011


Chuckles: "18I sure hope there is a better reason than this for the strange tread pattern on the wheels."

The tread pattern is used to calibrate instruments and to tell how far the rover has traveled. When I visited JPL last summer (and got to see Curiousity!), one of the people who worked there said that they originally submitted a tread pattern that said "JPL." NASA rejected this as being insufficiently respectful of NASA's cohesion and overlordship or something. So they changed it to morse code. NASA approved that, not realizing it wasn't an abstract pattern.

I love it when geeks get over on bureaucrats.
posted by QIbHom at 8:16 AM on November 28, 2011


I love it when geeks get over on bureaucrats.

It was probably a short term win, the next JPL mission will probably receive more paperwork and micromanagement.

Not saying it wasn't worth it or that I wouldn't have done something similar, but pissing of bureaucrats usually results in fallout or blowback.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:47 AM on November 28, 2011


The German V-2 traveled at a maximum speed of 1600 miles per second…

Phew, no wonder we poached von Braun from the Nazis!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2011


The Curiosity rover's 'long cruise to Mars': By the numbers
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:57 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amazing timelapse movie from Brisbane Planetarium - Mars Science Laboratory (The official name of the Curiosity rover or MSL for short) cruise stage and its Centaur booster after the final boost to Mars. MSL is the moving dot to the left of the plume, which is the Centaur venting propellants to move away from MSL.


Will NASA retreat from Mars after string of successes?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:28 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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