Rover Software Updates

NASA says that a ‘brain transplant’ is necessary for the Curiosity rover before it can spool up to begin its research mission on the surface of Mars.

Subroutines used during the descent and landing of the rover and its ancillary parts are no longer needed, and the available memory on the rover is limited, so the onboard software needs to be updated to include instructions that will help it navigate its environment.

The process takes a couple of days; data transmission rates are slow and the rover isn’t in constant contact with its controllers on Earth.

(Image is a 3D render released by NASA.)


Plenty of eyes on Mars at the moment. NASA’s Curiosity rover is the largest robotic explorer yet to reach the surface of the red planet intact and has been garnering plenty of media attention.

And while much of Curiosity’s focus will be on just how different Mars is to our own planet, there’s at least one indication that we have something in common: crustal surface plates.

map of plate tectonics on Mars

Here’s news¬†of a discovery that indicates the surface of Mars has been subject to geological effects larger in scale than erosion. Photos, like the one above taken by an orbiting satellite, show signs of tectonic movement similar to large-scale terrestrial features like the Himalayas.

via Gizmodo

Near miss? I hope so…

I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories but why have I only just heard about this massive asteroid – about 400m long – predicted to pass Earth inside the Moon’s orbit on the 8th of November?

We can rest assured there is nothing to worry about. The path of this potential harbinger of doom is well understood and highly predictable. No danger at all. This time.

More from NASA. Or Google it – news outlets have started to pick up on it.

Top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2010

Just what it says up there.


Copernicus vs Tycho! Fight!

While we’re on the subject of the Solar System and illustrative animations, the orrery at this web page enables you to compare Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the solar system – wherein the sun is at the centre, orbited by other bodies – with the view, propounded by Tycho Brahe, of an Earth-centric universe.


As well as looking beautiful, the animation really underlines how complex the Tychonian model had to be to accommodate the observed motions of the planets in the earth-centric model.

Lesson? Don’t try to force the data to fit your theory; the simplest solution is usually the best.

What if Jupiter orbited where the moon is?

Get ready for a ride – the video at this link is really eye-opening.

Starting with the question “what would other planets look like if they were as far away as the moon?”, Brad Goodspeed animated a slow pan across the night sky to give you a better feeling for the relative scale of some of our solar system’s more familiar objects.

Watch it in HD for best effect!

More awesome Ares rocket photos

Just a quick one to share the Big Picture photo spread covering the build-up to the Ares test launch  last week.

Click here.