Introduction to Modern Astronomy

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The Mars Curiosity Rover
Li Yan (Lee)
University of New Hampshire
The Mars Curiosity rover
Introductory statement
The exploration of the planet for signs of life has been a major endeavor scientist. The
great story of the massive exploration captures the interest of the scientists after what was a
general exploration of the solar system captured the images of Mars. This picture created a
point of interest among the scientists in the field of astronomy. NASA has been on the
frontline in this voyage, creating and sending spaceships to carry out the expenditure. Various
missions have been launched to Mars with some hit unsuccessful ends. There is about five
orbiters spaceship going around the orbit of Mars and gathering data from the planet that only
seems to qualify as the earth’s distant cousin.
The picture, images, and the data collected from the spaceships could not provide
sufficient evidence to determine whether Mars ever supported or can support life. For this
reason, the scientist saw the need to send an explorer and land it at the surface of the red
planet. Through this way more detailed data on the capabilities of the planet to support life
especially on the aspects of water and air qualities. The two successful landers and rovers are
Mars exploration rover (Opportunity) and the Curiosity of the Mars Science Laboratory.
This paper will be developed to describe the mission of the Curiosity Mars rover. It
will analyze in details the capability of this ship that makes it well suited for the exploration
mission. The primary functions that Curiosity was launched to perform. The paper will also
report on the progress on the NASA main purpose on the attempts to determine ad gather
evidence that Mars habitat supports life or once supported life.
The Curiosity rover was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force base on 26th
November 2011. The rover was destined to land at the Gale Crater on the surface of Mars.
The primary mission was destined to take 23 months. (NASA). The main goals of the
Curiosity were to gather evidence to help establish whether Mars had the ability to support
life, to analyzes the role of water, and to explore the climatic and geological conditions of the
planet. All this was seen as paving the way for future human exploration. To achieve these
goals, the mission of Curiosity was subdivided into categories each representing objectives.
These are biological, geological and the planetary process. The biological objective seeks to
address the issues of organic carbon compounds, chemicals regarded as a basic block of life
and the biological processes. In the geological objective, Curiosity was charged with to
research on the rocks and mineral composition. The planetary process was meant to address
the evolution process and the possible water and carbon dioxide cycles (Trebi, 2013).
Major Curiosity Rover’s technological components
Curiosity Rover developed by the Mars science laboratory was comprised of 77% of
its total mass as gears destined to ensure its safe transfer from the earth and to ensure a soft
landing on the surface of the earth. Only 23% of the total mass of the spacecraft was to be
used for carrying out the exploration mission. The active weight of Curiosity Rover including
the technological and scientific apparatus is 80kgs.
The powering of the Curiosity is conducted through radioisotope thermoelectric
generator (Trepi, 2013). These systems generate electricity to power the rover ad is systems
from the decomposition of radioactive isotopes mostly used being plutonium. The systems
were developed by Rocket dyne and Teledyne energy systems. The electricity is used to
recharge batteries to supply power. The stored energy facilitate to fulfill high peak power
demands of the systems when the same can be attained through the operation of the
generators optimal functionality and output level (Serafim, 2012).
The Curiosity Rover has advanced communications devices. According to Serafim
(2012) describes these communication devices. The Rovers bear’s three antennas; the X-band
transmitter with an ability of 400 megahertz. It also has a UHF electro-life controlled radio.
These communications systems facilitate sending of signals back to earth with a delay of only
13 minutes and 46 seconds.
The computer component of the curiosity is one that is slow, with little storage
capabilities even less than that of a smartphone but well adapted for the rugged terrain on the
surface of the Mars (Harwood, 2012). The computer described as the PowerPC RAD750 is
built to withstand extremely high temperature and to deal with a large amount of radiations
that would cripple other computers. This computer is also built with chips that are long
lasting thereby not demanding intervention from earth which may sabotage the mission.
The Curiosity rover has an inbuilt heat rejection system. Mars records varied
temperature levels ranging from -127-40 degrees Celsius. Mostly the heating system will
require warming the system. Heating in the rover is achieved by strategic placing electric
heaters close to the key components and working the heat rejection systems. This system
operates by using a fluid around the essential components that absorb heat and helps maintain
their temperature at optimal.
The mobility of the Curiosity rover has six wheels with rocker-bogie suspension.
Every wheel has cleats, and gearing is done independently to ensure the movement on the
soft sand and rocky surface. The vehicle is well adapted for making arch turns with the ability
to steer each front and back wheel independently (Harwood, 2012).
Serafim (2012) describes the cameras installed in the Curiosity rover. The rover has
17 cameras. The best of them are the Mast Camera instrument that bears a 100-mm focal
length and a 34mm focal-length camera. It also carries four pairs of hazards avoidance
cameras known as Hazcam and navigation cameras.
The Curiosity rover is also fitted with a robotic that is very flexible with three joints at
the shoulder, elbow, and the wrist. The arms can extend for 7 feet. The end of the arm has a
turret used to hold five devices; an alpha particle x-ray, a hand lens imager and on an addition
to three devices for gathering samples.
To ensure the performance of its core functions, the Curiosity rover is made to operate
many instruments. Among then include alpha-particle X-ray, chemical and mineralogy
device, sample analysis, assessment radiation tracker, the dynamic albedo of neutrons, an
environmental monitoring station equips with a meteorological package and a UV sensor.
The Curiosity Rover touchdown
The Curiosity used a guided entry for the atmospheric to improve the landing
accuracy (Trebi, 2013). The landing is initiated with the cruise separation from the spacecraft.
This is then followed by a deceleration towards the surface of the Mars leading to heating.
The guided entry has followed a path that was a horizontal flight. During the parachute
descent, there was the separation of the heat shield and the back shell from where the
spacecraft underwent a powered descent from the sky crane that designed a place for the
rover’s touchdown.
The findings of the Curiosity Rover.
The curiosity made a discovery that some years back, Mars had the right conditions to
support life. The chemical conditions were found to have been suitable for living microbes to
survive. The chemical elements included sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon
which are key element required to sustain life (NASA, 2015). Some samples collected some
clay particles with low levels of salt a possible indication that there once flowed fresh water
on those zones.
The Curiosity rover also discovered elements of organic carbon on the rocks from the
surface of Mars. The organic components are considered to be the building blocking of living
organisms. This sample was gathered by the sample analysis at Mars. Although this is not
conclusive evidence of present or past life, it portrays the availability of essentials of life
(NASA, 2015).
Another key finding on this red planet by Curiosity rover was the presence of preset
and active methane in the atmosphere (NASA, 2015). This was discovered by the Tunable
laser spectrometer in the SAM, and it recorded an increase of ten-fold within a period of two
months. This was an intriguing discovery as one possible source of methane is living things
or a reaction between rock and water.
The radiation levels on Mars were rated as a big health risk for a human. The
radiation assessment detector discovered two harmful rays on the deep space which could be
hazardous to the astronaut’s health. These rays are the galactic cosmic rays and the solar
energetic particles (NASA, 2015).
With the continued universe exploration, voyages to planet Mars have been
considered as essentially important. The main agenda has been to evaluate the planet’s
capabilities to support life. It is for this reason that the Curiosity Rover was commissioned
and deployed to Mars. The rover was designed and built with advanced technical capabilities
to facilitate a successful mission. The instruments installed allowed for the collection of data,
and samples, testing them, capturing images and relying on the information back to earth.
The rover was built with mobility capabilities to help in navigating on Mars’ rugged terrain.
The computer in the Curiosity rover was built to withstand extreme heat and radiations.
The major discoveries provided evidence pointing to that Mars may have at one time
supported life. The discovery of organic compound and increasing the level of methane in the
atmosphere. The rover also discovered that the radiation levels would be a threat to the health
well-being of human.
Harwood, W. (2012, August). Slow, but rugged, curiosity’s computer was built for
Mars. Retrieved from
NASA. (2015). Results of Curiosity Rover. Retrieved from
Serafim, M. (2012, August). NASA’s curiosity over- Technical specifications.
Trebi, A. (2013, March). Robotic exploration of Mars: Curiosity Rover, Phoenix Mars
Lander and Mars Exploration rovers (Spirit & Opportunity).

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