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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Videos: Where are Curiosity's science instruments and how do they work?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

01-08-2012 12:51 CDT

Topics: podcasts and videos, explaining technology, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)

Planetary Radio producer Mat Kaplan and I recently recorded a couple of videos about Curiosity and all its instruments, standing in front of a model of the rover at JPL. I had last seen this model more than a year ago, and was pleasantly surprised with how much it's been tinkered with since then; many more features have been added or altered to make it more similar to the real thing. (The most important detail they took care of: switching the eyes to the two different-sized apertures of the MastCam.)

One note about these videos: Several times, I mention there being 16 cameras on the rover. There are actually 17. Here's a blog post about the seventeenth.

There is still one more video to be posted from this session, one made especially for kids, explaining how Curiosity will be a robot geologist. That video will probably be premiered at Planetfest on Saturday and posted here some time after that! Here's a teaser photo from that segment:


See other posts from August 2012


Or read more blog entries about: podcasts and videos, explaining technology, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)


Goldfires: 08/02/2012 07:44 CDT

You're looking great as a field geologist, Emily :-)

Faye Kane, homeless brain: 08/04/2012 06:20 CDT

Wow, cool vid about the cams! But why are their FOUR hazard cams? Redundancy? Different f-ratios? Aimed in different directions, or what? And are they color? Also, what are examples of what the haz cams would warn the rover about? Big rocks? The other rover got stuck in the sand, do the haz cams avoid that? And that reminds me, does this rover have any design changes so it won't get stuck in the sand like the other one? I would think that a one-ton rover would be MUCH more likely to get stuck. And does the rover computer process the haz cam images and do AI to detect hazards, or do the Earth controllers use them to tell Curiosity what to do? Another question: I was a nuc engineer a long time ago, so I'm curious: There are radiator fins on the reactor containment vessel. Without them, would the fuel get so hot that it melts? Why don't they route all that waste heat to the electronics since they're usually colder than Antarctica? Is the waste heat used at all for that, or is the computer heated with resistors and the huge amount of precious heat just wasted? Also, they know that dust on the one live rover from the previous pair will eventually kill it by blocking the solar cells. But this one is nuc powered; what will probably kill this rover? Even if it can't move, might it stay alive as a science platform until the radionuclide decays like Voyager, and if so, how long will that be? Are any precautions taken to protect future Mars people from opening the reactor and poisoning everyone nearby with Plutonium (like a skull and crossbones), or do they figure that the first thing settlers will do is find the rover and remove the reactor? Finally: crawling around on the rug next to the rover, explaining stuff? GOD you have the perfect job! And you write for S&T? I've read that since I was a little girl. Dam, Emily, you're who I would have been if I weren't autistic. You are SO lucky. -- faye, idiot savant

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