Nov 10, 2011

All About Curiosity, the Martian Rover

Curiosity is a Martian rover part of NASA's MSL(Mars Science Laboratory ) mission.
The mission's target launch date is November 25th. Its planned mission on Mars is 668 sols,(a "sol" is like a day on Mars-the time it takes for the planet to rotate once) or 1 martian year.The white mini cooper-sized rover is 3 meters long(10 ft) and weighs 900 kilograms. compare that to Spirit and Opportunity, which are 1.5meters(5 ft) long and weigh 174 kilograms. Twice as long, 5 times heavy. Well enough with the data, lets see what's the same and what's not with the other martian rovers.

    mars rover curiosity

1. It is nuclear powered. The former rovers Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity were solar powered.   But the problem was that solar power is not so efficient.   Also, the watts drop spectacularly when there's dust on the solar panels,  and it can't even operate at night.  These are the reasons why Curiosity is powered by nuclear energy. RTG(Radioactive Thermoelectric Generators), in fact. They have a minimum life span of 14 years, so as long as the hardware doesn't break then it'll work for at least 14 years.

2. It takes HD video. Up till now, we only had spectacular, but still, unmoving pictures of the Red Planet. But there's a camera on Curiosity that takes 720p, 10fps videos. Can't wait to see how it'll turn up.

3.It shoots lasers. No, nothing like Star Wars. To analyse the "ingredients" of a rock, the MSL can shoot lasers to vaporize a bit of it and then collect the spectrum of the light emitted. This lets us look at the rock's elements without even touching it.

4. It  shoots alpha rays, too. Again, this is for analyzing rocks.

5. It will touch down on its wheels. After deaccererating with parachutes, the Curiosity rover pops out, hung off by a "sky crane", and will guide the rover to a "gentle" landing. This method has never been tried before. You've gotta see the video to believe it.
I think this is a bit risky maneuver, because if anything goes wrong during descent, the MSL mission will probably  meet its early end. So thumbs crossed on the landing. It will happen sometime during August 6th and the 20th, 2012.

Nov 6, 2011

The Universe is like Earth

I'm going to write about a difficult topic today, about our 4-dimensional spacetime. "4 dimensional spacetime" means that there are 3 dimensions for the space(x,y,and z axis) and 1 for "time". but the four dimensional space we live in, is twisted in another dimension other than the ones I mentioned about before.

yes, it is REALLY confusing. trying to think about it in a normal way will probably explode everyone's heads, so let's talk about it in lesser dimensions.

for example, think about Earth. the surface of our planet is 2-D(2-D as in space, not spacetime). but the planet itself is a 3-d sphere. if you started from-say- Rome and went westwards and westwards, you'd eventually get back to Rome.

then add another dimension to it. get the idea? this means that if he traveled space in 1 direction for a very long time, we'd get back to Earth. the universe is like the Earth, but only a LOT more confusing.

funnily, this reminds me of a question solved centuries ago-"what's the edge of earth like?" people thought that the edge of our world(which turned out to be earth) had waterfalls and high mountains and the like. but then Magellan went around the world during the 1500s, to prove it was a sphere. the universe is a similar thing. except that there is no Magellan to prove it physically.