There is a certain angst and concern we feel when updating our technology to the newest operating system. Now NASA has completed its latest update to the surface rover Curiosity. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project manager, Jim Ericson, stated that the Mars rover Curiosity was now running flight software version 11. Ericson acknowledged that this was the third update since the rover landed on Mars 16 months ago.
This was the second attempt to install the new version of the software. The first attempt failed on November 7 when the rover fell into unplanned reboot and reverted back to version 10. Ericson said that the second attempt to update to version 11 had taken a week to complete and was successful. The software update will allow the rovers arm greater flexibility on slopes and improve data storage ability. The rover will be better able to store navigation data overnight allowing it to run automated maneuvers the next day. The NASA rover was now online and ready to continue its mission of exploring the surface.
Its first priority is to move the rover to a level surface so it can review the left wheel. NASA has identified wear and holes in the aluminum wheel likely caused by sharp terrain that the Curiosity has been moving over. Photographs taken on November 30, 2013 revealed dents and holes. Future repair of the wheel was not discussed at the time. Ericson said that they wanted to take a close look at the wheel and that they expected to see dents and holes due to the terrain it has travelled upon. NASA feels that now the update is complete the Curiosity can be fully assessed for any damage that may have occurred.
Could the wheel damage interfere with the projects $2.5 billion project and mission? Ericson thinks not. Ericson added that the wheels can take significant damage without sacrificing the rover’s ability to drive and maneuver. He wants to get an understanding of the terrains effect on the Curiosity’s wheels so the team can better plan out future travel along the planet surface. Now they know that certain Mars surface areas are dangerous and can avoid them.
NASA launched the Curiosity probe on November 26, 2011 and the probe landed on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012. The general mission for the Curiosity is to research the planets habitability, study its geology and climate and collect data for a future manned exploration of the planet. So far the Mars mission has been very successful, according to NASA, and the update to the Curiosity will allow the research to continue knowing that there is not significant damage to the rover’s wheels.
The rover, Curiosity, will continue its mission of gathering data and sending back images that can help NASA scientists better understand the climate and geological structure of the planet. There seems to be little doubt that at one time and perhaps even currently, life is sustainable on the planet. NASA patiently works through week long updates and gently moves forward in preparation of man’s first step on the planet.
By Anthony Clark