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Curiosity Rover on Mars
This Should be Front Page News!
The Curiosity Rover is a nuclear-powered truck driving around on Mars. The near-miraculous landing was spectacular, but now the robot has survived and is trundling about, the pictures are amazing, and this is going to go on a long while. There will be a lot more news yet!
Because of the speed of light, the communication between the folks at Mission Control and the Curiosity Rover isn't instantaneous. It takes 14 minutes. So although it was possible for Lunokhod (on the Moon) to be driven by remote-control, it's impractical to do this for Curiosity on Mars. Instead, the robot rover has to be its own helmsman and made its own decisions about how to cope with obstacles, of which there are many on Mars.
Here are a few helpful links:
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ - the official site of Curiosity by NASA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_rover - well-written Wikipedia page with plenty of worthwhile details
www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/aug/06/curiosity-rover-mars-landing-live-blog - commentary as the landing happened
http://curiositywatch.com/ - a helpful Mars Curiosity enthusiast site
www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/ybmmh/we_are_engineers_and_scientists_on_the_mars/ - contains a few sensible questions
http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=36864 - Raptor v Rover - a slightly tongue-in-cheer review which compares Ford's all-terrain vehicle with the Curiosity rover! Nevertheless, valid, because it shows the rover's characteristics on the human scale.
http://blog.jgc.org/2012/08/curiosity-rover-writes-morse-code-of.html - Morse Code tracks of the wheels on the surface of Mars
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/images/index.html - spectacular images
www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nasas-mars-curiosity-11-things-you-may-not-know/2012/08/02/gJQA2VCYSX_gallery.html#photo=1 - 1 of 11 pages of info with pictures, NASA's Mars Curiosity: 11 things you may not know - Washington Post
www.thejournal.ie/mars-science-laboratory-life-landing-planet-546639-Aug2012/ - some commentary prior to the landing
To see more about robot vision, see robot vision, where there are some interesting research projects. This is not just a matter of robots taking pictures, but more a matter of robots knowing what they are seeing.
There are likely to be more of these resources, because as well as the likelihood of Curiosity discovering life on Mars, there's also the fact that this is a long-running mission. The rover isn't going to run out of fuel for at least 14 years, so it's likely there will be more news on an ongoing basis. If you have a website about Curiosity on Mars, please let me know and we can see about a link.
Avove: Picture of Mars Curiosity rover released by NASA as public domain, as per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mars_Science_Laboratory_Curiosity_rover.jpg
Below: Detail from one of the pictures taken by Curiosity, showing some distant mountains: (contrast adjusted)
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16100.html - but not the close-up shown on that page itself. Instead, to see this, get the full-size jpg, 20,000 x 4,912, or is it 29,000 x 7,000 ? There's a panorama of mountains in the distance.