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(NASA)   Curiosity's seven minutes of terror - also known as the most ridiculously awesome video of how to land a rover on Mars that you'll see today   (nasa.gov) divider line 72
    More: Cool, rovers  
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4715 clicks; posted to Geek » on 24 Jun 2012 at 9:32 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-06-24 07:34:10 AM
This is insanely cool. The engineers who designed this method of landing on Mars will either be hailed as geniuses if it works or pie-in-the-sky dreamers if it fails- there is no in between.

/saw them building Curiosity back at JPL about 2 years ago
 
2012-06-24 09:39:46 AM
I'm a big skeptic of this process.

So, huge kudos and a tip of the hat if they manage to get this to work.
 
2012-06-24 09:42:26 AM
Very cool.

What's different about this rover that they didnt want to use the Spirit/Bouncy Ball landing? Size? Because I've heard size matters but I'm not sure I believe that.
 
2012-06-24 09:48:46 AM
NASA and JPL have had experience with all of the individual components of this kind of landing, but operationally, it's never been put together in this way before, all in one package. Soyuz capsules use rockets in the last seconds of landing, but they don't exactly hover and float in a stable way while lowering down a payload on cables. And it wasn't possible to fully practice this landing on Earth due to the gravity differences. This is basically the first time it will be done for real, and there's a lot of things that have to work right the first time.

The crane phase of this will be the hardest, I think. If the radar doesn't get a lock, creating the wrong hover altitude, and the cables are too long or too short, the payload will still hit the ground too hard and break. The cables have to pay out evenly and all cut cleanly at the same instant, or the retro package will drag the lander across mars like the decorations dragging behind the getaway car after a wedding ceremony.
 
2012-06-24 09:49:31 AM
One thing I don't understand--why does the rocket lander have to do a maneuver to get away from the parachute? That sounds like a waste of fuel to me. Disconnect and simply build up some horizontal velocity--the rocket lander will fall faster than the parachute it cut away from, getting the needed separation.
 
2012-06-24 09:53:26 AM
Is it me or does this whole thing look like it was designed by Rube Goldberg?
 
2012-06-24 09:54:57 AM
Pics or it didn't happen
 
2012-06-24 10:00:38 AM
don't wanna foul that thing in the chute


www.wall4ever.com
 
2012-06-24 10:06:25 AM
This is a radical change from the last deployment, so why fix what isn't broken? Surrounding it in inflated air balls did well last time.

I'm starting a CURIOSITY POOL

How many says success the way they declare it?

Me personally, I'm going with failure at the point in which the hovering pod must disconnect, but fail to due to extreme heat ceasing the latches, causing that rocket pod to blast away from the rover, and take the rover with it due to a failure to disconnect
 
2012-06-24 10:07:14 AM
Hopefully they have the miles/kilometer thing figured out.

And Anita is pretty good looking.
 
2012-06-24 10:12:02 AM
Horizontal velocity is bad: good chance the rover would roll over. The airbag landing is not possible for a payload this large and heavy. So you have to go with a propulsive landing.

I hope they built in some means of cleaning the solar panels this time, ...wait, this one is RTG atomic-powered, so fark the dust:-) Still, cameras better have a cleaning method.
 
2012-06-24 10:21:21 AM

Fizpez: Very cool.

What's different about this rover that they didnt want to use the Spirit/Bouncy Ball landing? Size? Because I've heard size matters but I'm not sure I believe that.


I don't know why they decided against the bouncy ball landing, but the Curiosity rover is a lot heavier than the Spirit or Opportunity rovers. The originals weighed in at 408 pounds (185 kg), where the new one is 1984 pounds (900 kg). The Mars Science Laboratory (the "official" name of the Curiosity rover) page on Wikipedia has a great picture comparing the sizes of the various Mars rovers with a couple of NASA personnel.
 
2012-06-24 10:27:44 AM
farm5.static.flickr.com
Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmm!
 
2012-06-24 10:29:02 AM

Loren: One thing I don't understand--why does the rocket lander have to do a maneuver to get away from the parachute? That sounds like a waste of fuel to me. Disconnect and simply build up some horizontal velocity--the rocket lander will fall faster than the parachute it cut away from, getting the needed separation.


from what I gathered, the thrust caused by the engines would have sent the rover back up into the chute, so they had to go to the side to prevent that

The video was really kewl. Looking forward to hearing about touchdown
 
2012-06-24 10:29:18 AM
For all those wondering why you can't do the bouncy ball again, it's a combination of too heavy and precision.

Spirit and Opportunity were near the limit of the method- when they were testing it they had problems with the balls bursting and had to beef them up, which adds weight. To do it with Curiosity would waste too much payload

The other issue is control- bouncy ball landings had to be into large areas where it would be possible since you had no control over the landing at all. Skycrane is a lot more precise and lets them get much closer to interesting targets- see the recent retargeting of the lander to a much smaller area closer to interesting stuff
 
2012-06-24 10:44:10 AM

plaidhat: Fizpez: Very cool.

What's different about this rover that they didnt want to use the Spirit/Bouncy Ball landing? Size? Because I've heard size matters but I'm not sure I believe that.

I don't know why they decided against the bouncy ball landing, but the Curiosity rover is a lot heavier than the Spirit or Opportunity rovers. The originals weighed in at 408 pounds (185 kg), where the new one is 1984 pounds (900 kg). The Mars Science Laboratory (the "official" name of the Curiosity rover) page on Wikipedia has a great picture comparing the sizes of the various Mars rovers with a couple of NASA personnel.


Curiosity is *much* larger and heavier, and cannot sustain the forces induced by the bouncy ball technique.

The skycrane technique is also the most likely way to deliver larger components for a manned mission to the moon/Mars in the future. Consider this a working beta.
 
2012-06-24 10:44:40 AM
Neato. Though they needed more dramatic music. But seriously, I'll be shocked now if this thing actually lands alright.
 
2012-06-24 10:51:22 AM

plaidhat: The originals weighed in at 408 pounds (185 kg), where the new one is 1984 pounds (900 kg). The Mars Science Laboratory (the "official" name of the Curiosity rover) page on Wikipedia has a great picture comparing the sizes of the various Mars rovers with a couple of NASA personnel.


Wow, Curiosity looks pretty damn hardcore. I didn't realize Sojourner was so small.
 
2012-06-24 10:52:39 AM
I need to get ready for maybe a landing party.
 
2012-06-24 10:59:14 AM

veryequiped: Me personally, I'm going with failure at the point in which the hovering pod must disconnect, but fail to due to extreme heat ceasing the latches, causing that rocket pod to blast away from the rover, and take the rover with it due to a failure to disconnect


Oh, that would SUCK. The only thing worse is if you were the person in charge of designing that particular component.

"Dammit, Thompson! What did I TELL you about compensating for heat expansion???"
 
2012-06-24 11:01:43 AM

aspAddict: "Dammit, Thompson! What did I TELL you about compensating for heat expansion???"


"I'm sorry, I know I calculated the inches-per-degrees-Fahrenheit to the seventh decimal place!"
 
2012-06-24 11:05:37 AM
Seems awfully complex, and a lot could go wrong. But that's nothing new for NASA. They launched the shuttle without any prior test flight, and with 2 live humans aboard. That went successfully (missing heat shield tiles notwithstanding).
 
2012-06-24 11:09:48 AM
It's so crazy it might just work!
 
2012-06-24 11:17:32 AM
Soooo..... if it lands and works the power source according to wiki says it's minimum lifetime is 14 years, we can expect this to last till 2050? I mean the last two rovers Spirit and Opportunity were to last 90 days and then be stuck weather beacons when they get enough power to send any info back and they went +5 years.
 
2012-06-24 11:43:24 AM

Ummon: Is it me or does this whole thing look like it was designed by Rube Goldberg?


This.

/Simple is better.
 
2012-06-24 11:47:51 AM
Very well produced video, I actually really liked the dramatic music. Needs to be HD though, is there a better version kicking around?
 
2012-06-24 12:07:26 PM
It's not fair that smart people get to do all the really cool stuff and I'm stuck with, "Hey! Watch this!"
 
2012-06-24 12:19:57 PM

Any Pie Left: Horizontal velocity is bad: good chance the rover would roll over. The airbag landing is not possible for a payload this large and heavy. So you have to go with a propulsive landing.

I hope they built in some means of cleaning the solar panels this time, ...wait, this one is RTG atomic-powered, so fark the dust:-) Still, cameras better have a cleaning method.


I met the lead scientist for the previous 2 rovers during a visit to Cornell a few months before the launch. They had a plan to clean the panels if needed, not sure if it was official or even needed/employed. The panels were driven by motors and he said if necessary they could bring the panels up and do a little shake to get the dust off.
 
2012-06-24 12:31:43 PM
As my life crumbles into potential homelessness, I still stand in awe of things like this. The culture that can do things like this reminds me that there are very smart folks doing VERY important things that I can barely comprehend. It actually makes me feel good.


Imagine the meeting when this landing sequence was proposed... "cut the cables at the last moment? WTF"
 
2012-06-24 12:41:46 PM
Still the best video of landing a rover on mars: NIN to Mars
 
2012-06-24 12:54:37 PM
The more complex you make it, the more that can go wrong with it.

/still, I hope it works to perfection
 
2012-06-24 01:03:17 PM

veryequiped: This is a radical change from the last deployment, so why fix what isn't broken? Surrounding it in inflated air balls did well last time.

MSL was too big for airbags (MER A Spirit & B Oppy were 408 lbs/185 kg each, MSL is 2000 pounds/900 kg). As it stands now we don't know how to land humans on Mars because they'll be riding in something even bigger. If you watched the video, it explains it. Mars has just enough of an atmosphere to kill you, and not enough to let you slow down properly.

Which is another reason why this mission is so interesting. The data used during the transit will go directly towards designing a manned mission sometime in the future. They're testing how much radiation the spacecrafts gets during the cruise stage, and will take lots of pictures on the landing. Along with engineering data. Exciting times!

 
2012-06-24 01:14:46 PM
That landing looks tricky. I'm glad Neil and Buzz are flying that thing and not me.
 
2012-06-24 01:19:25 PM
Why not just get it into the soundstage on a flatbed like they dd the Apollo landings? Much cheaper.

/rummages around the dumpster for moar tin foil
 
2012-06-24 01:36:02 PM
Damn thing is complete insanity. Love it.
 
2012-06-24 02:02:39 PM
It seems like they held a meeting discussing all the ways that they could get this thing to fail, and OK'd every one of them.
 
2012-06-24 02:20:01 PM

BokChoy: Seems awfully complex, and a lot could go wrong. But that's nothing new for NASA. They launched the shuttle without any prior test flight, and with 2 live humans aboard. That went successfully (missing heat shield tiles notwithstanding).


By comparison, the Soviet Buran program had a much more conservative test program. A likely explanation was that the U.S. had superior computer simulation capability. The Buran atmospheric test vehicle, analogous to Space Shuttle Enterprise but self-powered by jet engines, made 25 manned flights. Enterprise was manned only 7 times atop its 747 carrier, and was only released for free flight and landing 5 of those times. Buran was to have four unmanned orbital flights using the first two orbiter vehicles twice each. The third orbiter would conduct the fifth orbital flight and be the first manned flight. Only the first unmanned Buran flight was completed before the program was defunded.
 
2012-06-24 02:38:39 PM
It boggles my mind that there are minds creative and keen enough to come up with this method.
 
2012-06-24 02:42:18 PM

Ummon: Is it me or does this whole thing look like it was designed by Rube Goldberg?


It's not you.
This is overly complicated and seems headed to being a massive cock-up.

At least if fails it won't be for the utter stupid reason of using 'feet' when 'meters' was needed.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a charter member of the 'NASA is AWESOME' club but this is either viewed as an experiment or someone didn't think it through; as strange as the 'beach ball' approach was it worked.
 
2012-06-24 02:43:26 PM

lohphat: Why not just get it into the soundstage on a flatbed like they dd the Apollo landings? Much cheaper.

/rummages around the dumpster for moar tin foil


They were going to fake the Moon landings, but then they realized something....
 
2012-06-24 02:57:10 PM
Is this officially the first nuclear powered vessel to attempt landing on Mars?
 
2012-06-24 03:17:28 PM

SVenus: Is this officially the first nuclear powered vessel to attempt landing on Mars?


No, the Viking landers both had RTGs too
 
2012-06-24 03:22:35 PM
Jesus Hopscotching Christ, is it absolutely necessary that every video now look like an MTV video (I'm told they still exist) or cereal commercial? Are there NO grown-ups left who are able to just take in information without having to be entertained at the same time anymore? Or is that that the people who make videos are all coke fiends who are physically incapable of imparting information without trying to puff J.J. Abrams' rod at the same time.

It's just embarrassing to watch this as an adult. I don't watch kiddie TV, and I'm not watching this OMGWTFBBQ infotainment crap either.
 
2012-06-24 03:24:09 PM

clovis69: No, the Viking landers both had RTGs too


Behold the awesome power of the internets. Thanks. I should have remembered.
 
2012-06-24 03:28:07 PM

BokChoy: They launched the shuttle without any prior test flight


Depends what you mean. It had never been launched to LEO before, nor returned therefrom. But they'd done substantial real-stick test flights with the non-orbiter prototype, Enterprise, which was functionally identical. And the heat shield technology had also been tested on earlier vehicles in service. So I don't think there was that much more to know or test by the time of that first launch. But I'm not an expert, so maybe you're right.
 
2012-06-24 03:30:34 PM

Deadite: Soooo..... if it lands and works the power source according to wiki says it's minimum lifetime is 14 years, we can expect this to last till 2050?


Wellllll... The RTGs are rated for 15 years, which means there's probably enough energy in the plutonium for 15 years of full mission power, and then it drops off from there. Whether Curiosity will still be mechanically sound by then remains to be seen. Unfortunately, a Mars lander is not like the Voyager probes, which can run on very little power and encounter maybe slightly less rarified solar wind as they travel. Curiosity will be buffeted by winds, dust and changing temperatures, all of which will reduce its physical lifespan.

Spirit and Opportunity had 90 sol mission lengths because that was the scope of their primary science objectives and nobody knew if they could survive the Martian winter. Fortunately, they did, and their solar panels kept getting cleaned by dust devils, so they've basically been able to last as long as their mechanical systems can operate.

Basically, I'd say if Curiosity is built to the same robust mechanical specs (or better), then it will probably last at least five, maybe seven years. After that, it depends on the physical wear and tear Mars dishes out.
 
2012-06-24 03:32:22 PM

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: Jesus Hopscotching Christ, is it absolutely necessary that every video now look like an MTV video (I'm told they still exist) or cereal commercial? Are there NO grown-ups left who are able to just take in information without having to be entertained at the same time anymore? Or is that that the people who make videos are all coke fiends who are physically incapable of imparting information without trying to puff J.J. Abrams' rod at the same time.

It's just embarrassing to watch this as an adult. I don't watch kiddie TV, and I'm not watching this OMGWTFBBQ infotainment crap either.

--
This is how I imagine some pitch meetings go when the engineers sell their crazy ideas to the people who control the scientific purse strings.

You have several projects, three get funding if you're real lucky, and they're all loudly clammoring for money.

The sexy sell gets the juice.

Science is still run by humans.
 
2012-06-24 03:55:25 PM
Cool videos attract smart kids.

You want the smart kids working for you.

(cough)SpaceX(cough)
 
2012-06-24 03:59:10 PM

lohphat: Why not just get it into the soundstage on a flatbed like they dd the Apollo landings? Much cheaper.


Not necessarily.
 
2012-06-24 04:07:59 PM

Nem Wan: BokChoy: Seems awfully complex, and a lot could go wrong. But that's nothing new for NASA. They launched the shuttle without any prior test flight, and with 2 live humans aboard. That went successfully (missing heat shield tiles notwithstanding).

By comparison, the Soviet Buran program had a much more conservative test program. A likely explanation was that the U.S. had superior computer simulation capability. The Buran atmospheric test vehicle, analogous to Space Shuttle Enterprise but self-powered by jet engines, made 25 manned flights. Enterprise was manned only 7 times atop its 747 carrier, and was only released for free flight and landing 5 of those times. Buran was to have four unmanned orbital flights using the first two orbiter vehicles twice each. The third orbiter would conduct the fifth orbital flight and be the first manned flight. Only the first unmanned Buran flight was completed before the program was defunded.


It's really a shame. I would have loved to see the Buran programme in operation. Scorn them all you like, but the Russians have been experts in practical spacefaring engineering almost as long as humans have thought about it seriously. Buran was not sexy, but I'm sure it was good for the job and would have served well, had the money not run out.
 
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