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.)


Tectonic

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


Really, really old stuff

According to its growth rings, the zircon crystal below took 200 million years to grow.

zircon-under-e-scope.jpg

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario discovered these crystals in northern Ontario. For something so small – less than the width of a human hair – they are having a massive impact: their existence has prompted a re-examination of the expected result of subjecting crystals like this to heat and pressure deep under the Earth.

Ideas about how minerals and crystals respond to these conditions may now have to be re-visited. Amazing to think, though, that crystals can be dated in the same way as trees.