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How to run a robot on Mars

A self portrait of NASA's curiosity movement taken on Mars, June 7, 2018Some 78 million miles (1 26 million miles)…



A self portrait of NASA’s curiosity movement taken on Mars, June 7, 2018

Some 78 million miles (1

26 million miles) from Earth, alone on the huge and ugly Red Planet, a robot that appeared on a small 4×4 just after the sunrise. And just as it has every day for the past six years, it is waiting for its instructions.

9:30 AM Mars comes from California, where it was sent 15 minutes earlier.

“Drive forward 10 meters, turn to an azimuth of 45 degrees, turn your autonomous capacity and drive.”

Kuriosa rover runs the commands, moves slowly to its designated position, with a maximum speed of 35 to 110 meters per hour.

Its batteries and other configurations limit its daily driving voltage to about 100 meters. The most curiosity that has rolled on Mars in one day is 220 meters.

When it arrives, its 17 cameras take shot from its surroundings.

Its laser zaps stones. Other tools on board drill into a particularly interesting rock to study small samples.

On March 5th, one of NASA’s three satellites will call the planet to pass.

Curiosity then sends several hundred megabytes

A miniature laboratory

On the ground floor of building 34 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, scientists spread over scientific data through large earth aerials to their human master of the earth. Curiosity’s data every day at 13.00, in a large windowless room full of scientific instruments and computers.



NASA researcher Charles Malespin poses next to a reproduction of the SAM instrument aboard the Rover Curiosity on Mars

The scientists are looking for any indication of life on Mars.

Within Curiosity lies a “wonder of miniaturization,” said Charles Malespin, Assistant Research Analyst at Mars (SAM), a pharmacy laboratory of a microwave.

“It’s the most complicated instrument NASA has ever sent to another planet,” said Malespin, who devoted his professional life to the project since 2006.

SAM analyzes samples of martian soil by heating them in an oven which reaches 1,800 Fahrenheit (1000 Celsius).

The hot rock releases gas which is separated and analyzed by instruments offering a “fingerprint”.

At Goddard, a French postdoctoral researcher, Maeva Millan, this chemical compares chemical fingerprints to experiments performed on known molecules.

When they resemble each other, she can say, “Oh, that’s the right molecule.”



This NASA image shows a 2-inch deep hole rover drill on the Mars surface to extract stone samples in May 2018

It is thanks to SAM that researchers know that there are complex organic molecules on Mars.

And SAM has helped scientists learn that Mars geologically is much younger than before.

“If you” will you go to Mars, you do not want to bring things you can already use for resources, “like water, says Malespin.”

“If you want my soil and warm it up and let go of the water, you can bring a big oven with you and you have all the water you want.”

The same applies to different materials that can be used to make rocket fuel, so that Red Planet can act as a future gas station for rockets.

No joystick

On the other side of the United States, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, about two dozen men and women constitute the law that drives curiosity.



French postdoctoral researcher Maeva Millan at work at NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

“My favorite part of the day (when is it) I start sitting and start looking at the pictures from Mars and understand where the rover is currently,” said Frank Hartman, who has driven curiosity and another elder robber, Opportunity.

“And my feeling is that sometimes I’m probably the first person on earth to look at some of these pictures.”

The master task of the marsh drivers is to write the sequence of commands for the rover to follow the next sun, or “day” on Mars, lasting 24 hours and almost 40 minutes. There is no joystick and no real-time communication with the robot vehicle.

It’s a delay when drivers realize something went wrong, whether it’s possible to be buried by a mart’s dust storm earlier this year or a wheel of curiosity

or the breakdown of curiosity curiosity that occurred at the beginning of the year and took a few months to resolve.

“We have not been to any of these places before,” said Hartman.

“And so, we must always be aware of the fact that we know so little about what we encounter.”



Sediment of an old Marian lake visited rover Curiosity in December 2013

When years pass, these researcher drivers are linked to their robots. When the opportunity went silent after 14 years of processing around Mars, Hartman and his colleagues felt a sense of sadness.

Possibility “retired with honor,” says Hartman.

Curiosity, which landed in 2012, has so far traveled over 12 miles (19.75 km). It has to wait a year before reaching its goal, Mount Sharp.

A few months later, it will lose its marsh monopoly. Two robbers – one American and one European – are planning to land on the planet 2020.


Explore further:
Drilling Success: Curiosity is to collect Mars stones

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