back to article NASA's Curiosity rover will try risky landing near Mount Sharp

NASA has decided to up the ante for the Mars rover Curiosity's arrival next month by pushing the landing site nearer to the foot of an inconvenient mountain. The old and new landing targets for Curiosity The old and new landing targets for Curiosity. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS Obviously an obstacle …


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  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Coming to a rover near mars....

    Cyanogen Mod - Red Planet edition.

    Anyone wondering if you can brick a rover?

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  3. stuartnz
    Thumb Up

    Super Patch Tuesday

    "More upgrades for its surface ops are due to be beamed to the rover a week after landing" - the language nerd in me loves that MS's update day is named after Mars (or his Anglo-Saxon counterpart), but I do hope that the coincidence ends there - "presence of organic compounds indicating life has been .. you must restart your rover for the updates to take effect"

    1. Fatman

      Re: you must restart your rover for the updates to take effect"

      And pray that its BIOS isn't fucked from all of that radiation the rover received during its journey to the red planet.

      I wonder how much NASA has to pay Micro$oft for the latest version of "Windows for Spacecraft - Extraterrestrial Edition".

  4. Anonymous Cowerd

    The mountain isn't "inconvenient".

    They're landing it there because the mountain is its first intended geological target.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The mountain isn't "inconvenient".

      it'll quickly become very inconvenient if they hit it....

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "Curiosity is not as life-limited as the approximate 90-day missions ..."

    I bet they feel smug at NASA (and with good reason!) whenever they mention the 90 expected survival of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars, especially with Opportunity rolling again after 8 years on Mars.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed for Curiosity.

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: "Curiosity is not as life-limited as the approximate 90-day missions ..."

      Makes you slightly concerned about NASA's estimating process that they still refer to "approx. 90-days"... From a PM perspective I'd get practically hung, drawn and quartered for wasting resource on over-engineering something to that degree.

      1. Colin Miller

        Re: "Curiosity is not as life-limited as the approximate 90-day missions ..."

        MERs' estimated lifespan was 90 sol (Martian days), or 92 days, 5 hours, 22 minutes and 51.68 seconds by Earth reckoning. However the NASA engineers under-promised and over-engineered, and dust-removal from the solar panels happened more frequently than they'd anticipated, which is why MER-B is still rollin' after 8 years.

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Annihilator

        Probably true to some extent. But I think the over engineering was to have a backup to cope with catastrophic failures. :P

        Thankfully they did not have any, so it lasted a lot longer. That and the dust not being the mission killer they first thought it would be, as mentioned.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Curiosity is not as life-limited as the approximate 90-day missions ..."

        Maybe the design goal was not to build something to last 90 days - but at least 90 days. In other words do the the best you can, but your best has to last at least 90 days.

        I would say their best was pretty damm good.

        (When you have something that last past the warranty is up to you write nasty letters to the company about over designing their products and never buy anything fro m them again?)

      4. Jason Miles

        Re: "Curiosity is not as life-limited as the approximate 90-day missions ..."

        Are your projects designing something to survive in deep space and then land and roll around on another planet?

        NASA has, in the past, been criticized for not overengineering enough.

  6. Wombling_Free

    And if they do crash into the mountain...

    I mean how likely is crashing into a mountain? Especially the first time you try an incredibly complex landing system with about 30 different places to go horribly wrong!

    Lucky they sent TWO probes, just in case!

    Oh, wait...

    Redundancy is such a hippie 70's thing now that we have 100% perfected landing on Mars!

    1. Beachrider

      Re: And if they do crash into the mountain...

      The sky-crane mechanism was used on MERs and Sorjourner. The major difference this time is that the sky-crane will drop-off at ground level, instead of dropping it 50 feet above the ground.

      There is always risk in these actions. This kind of landing is KEY to capsule-type landings that are being dreamed up by Mars settlement thinkers...

  7. Arachnoid

    Planning to fail is not allowed these days......I guess that makes back ups out of the question.

  8. Steve Hosgood

    0 out of 10 for arithmetic

    El. Reg. claims: "The previous landing target zone for the MSL was around 12 miles (19km) wide and 16 miles (26km) long. The new narrower zone is just four miles wide (6.4km) and 12 miles (19km) long."

    If you go look at NASA's (original) version of this you get: "The larger ellipse, 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) by 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) was already smaller than the landing target area for any previous Mars mission, due to this mission's techniques for improved landing precision. Continuing analysis after the Nov. 26, 2011, launch resulted in confidence in landing within an even smaller area, about 12 miles by 4 miles (20 by 7 kilometers)."

    Looks like El. Reg. got the story from someone who'd decided that the imperial measurements must have been the "real" ones, then rounded them to the nearest integer, THEN somehow the rounded-off imperial measures got converted back to metric with the assumption that they were still accurate.

    What an utter mess.

    If you look around NASA's entire 'Curiosity' site, all the scales on maps, onscreen graphics and other stuff is in metric measures only - they've just provided an imperial version in the blurb on the press release page presumably for the benefit of the U.S. press and U.S public who are apparently incapable of dealing with anything else.

    Can't we just have the metric measures on their own over here, eh?

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    2. asdf

      Re: 0 out of 10 for arithmetic

      Us oddball Americans always have to do it wrong eh? Metric at least makes more sense than getting us to like a boring ass sport where you can't hit people, can't use your hands and playing for a 0 to 0 tie is viable strategy. Soccer was invented because girly men that are 1,75m and weighing 65 kg need a sport too.

      1. John A Blackley

        Re: 0 out of 10 for arithmetic

        asdf has never:

        A) Watched a football game (not sure what this 'soccer' is that he speaks of)

        B) Met a losing centre-half in the pub after a game.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: John A Blackley

          If you're going to bang on about the game's "proper" name, it's called Association Football. Soccer is an abbreviation of Association.

          "Rugger" never caught on for Rugby Football. I guess it sounds a bit silly.

          1. Chris Glen-smith
            Thumb Up

            Re: John A Blackley

            Soccer is an abbreviation of Association

            Thanks - didn't know that.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 0 out of 10 for arithmetic

        Listening to an audiobook in the car today (When Worlds Collide) and the American reader pronounced a number as "thirty one point one hundred and thirty seven ten thousandths."

        Made me smile that did :-)

      3. Steve Hosgood

        Re: 0 out of 10 for arithmetic

        asdf writes: "Us oddball Americans always have to do it wrong eh?"

        I never said anything about "wrong", but even you "oddball Americans" have to agree that your press seem to habitually report most things in imperial measures only. Even for those things which you'd think everyone would WANT to have in metric measures, like (say) the results of long-jump, triple-jump, high-jump, pole vault (etc) in athletics meetings. Your own athletes must struggle with seeing the results for those events reported in feet and inches, considering that at any international athletics meeting those same things are going to be measured in metres.

        Yet it seems that the "oddball American" press do refer to athletics running distances in metres. So Usain Bolt's 9.69sec running record is still in the "100m sprint", not the "109yards 1ft 1 inch dash". Strange.

        I note with enthusiasm though that the "oddball American" space agency NASA are evidently doing their science in metric even if the "oddball Americans" press can't cope.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Soccer was invented because girly men that are 1,75m"

        1,75m, you say? Is that some sort of numerical range, or perhaps the first entry in a numbered list? Or is 1 the age?

        Round these parts, we use decimal points.

        "Soccer" was invented because "Association Football" was too boring to say, which doesn't really have much to do with using your hands or playing for a draw. Maybe you were talking about the game football, which only needed nominal disambiguation when variants appeared?

        1. asdf

          Re: "Soccer was invented because girly men that are 1,75m"

          >Round these parts, we use decimal points.

          Yeah spent time in Germany so habit to use comma.

          By the way not saying all English sports are pussy as obviously Rugby Union and League are real sports unlike Cricket (tea break and goofy hats really really?) Nor am I saying some American sports aren't just as pussy (Baseball almost as pathetic as Cricket and probably more than Soccer (who at least run more than 30 sec a game)).

  9. David 164

    Hopefully this is not them being cocky after the success they have had with Opportunity the other recent Mars Missions.

    Wish them the best of luck.

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