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back to article NASA planning Curiosity v2.0 for Mars touchdown in 2020

NASA has been laying out its plans to send a second rover to Mars based on the Curiosity platform that's currently trundling across, and burrowing into, the planet's surface. "The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're …

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Silver badge
WTF?

Curiosity 2 would meet it's father?

Wouldn't that cause time and space to explode or something like that?

Or maybe we can recover and recycle Spirit and Opportunity to make Curiousity 2, which would then become it's own grandpa....

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Re: Curiosity 2 would meet it's father?

More like it's older brother.

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Headmaster

Re: Curiosity 2 would meet it's father?

Or "its" even.

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Facepalm

Re: Curiosity 2 would meet it's father?

"Wouldn't that cause time and space to explode or something like that?"

Um, no. I meet my father on a fairly regular basis and have done for over 40yrs now and, to my knowledge, time and space have not yet exploded.

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Bronze badge
Childcatcher

"...and not have to worry about an unproven design as a side benefit."

Good luck with that. Despite the protests of the engineers, the project managers won't be able to resist the urge to tweak the proven design just a little bit here and just a little bit there, so much and so often that the final product is completely different, orders of magnitude more complex, with new functionality expected to run on a legacy platform which was never designed to cope... I've seen all this happen on far too many version 2.0 projects.

Pessimist? Me? Try imagining it as a BOFH episode...

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Happy

Re: "...and not have to worry about an unproven design as a side benefit."

So NASA will become the spacefaring equivalent of SAAB.

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Silver badge

Re: "...and not have to worry about an unproven design as a side benefit."

"Try imagining it as a BOFH episode..."

So, when the project managers try to "tweak the proven design just a little bit here and just a little bit there" they will be trapped in the server room while the halon system goes off, bundled up in an old roll of carpet and never seen again?

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we need to find water

we can certainly change mars into an earth, it just takes determination, time and taxes.

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Re: we need to find water

we need to find water

we can certainly change mars into an earth, it just takes determination, time and taxes. … Allison Park Posted Wednesday 5th December 2012 03:30 GMT

SMARTR Money and considerably more advanced intelligences are into changing struggling Earth into heavenly Mars, AP. It just takes absolutely fabulous determined imaginanation, time and fiat paper currency for unbridled spending and universal investing.

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Re: we need to find water

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said.

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Windows

Yes, but...

Curiosity is all well & good but...

It's slow. As in, very slow. As in, really slow. As in, a tortoise would get impatient with it.

And the onboard processor is antiquated. And slow.

Yes, there was an article in El Reg (nice one, actually) about WHY they always use such old processors but still, can somebody PLEASE put a processor that was actually made THIS century in it?

I live in China & in every toy shop here, you can buy some really nifty toy helicopters in a range of sizes. Mars has a thin atmosphere, true, but while scientists crunch the numbers from the instruments, you could really fascinate the masses with airborne views of Mars taken from a very lightweight helicopter that would periodically land, recharge & then scout about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, but...

For any wing (be it fixed or rotating) to work with Mars's thin atmosphere, it would have to be impracticably huge.

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Happy

Re: Yes, but...

Whilst physical speed is nice for us impatient humans here on earth, when you're beaming delayed instructions across the solar system you don't want to suddenly have an "oh shit" moment as the rover rockets towards the martian equivalent of a tree or lamppost (probably a rock, lets be honest) at many mph. Also, the rover is effectively a laboratory on wheels - try analysing samples for signs of life whilst rocketing over sand dunes in the back of a van and it'll probably be a bit tough for us as well :)

As for the antiquated electronics, keep in mind the types of conditions that the chips have to put up with - they're being blasted into space, subjected to massive G's, heat, extreme cold, levels of radiation that even Lewis Page would admit are "a bit high" and after 6 months of being dormant, suddenly wake up and orchestrate a perfect sky puppet landing without munting into the martian surface. *Then* it has to actually start doing things, whilst still being subjected to radiation, cold, heat, etc and whilst not using too much power. And it needs to be able to deal with the situation as well as it possibly can should any errors pop up, or damage occur.

Overall, one of the most time consuming aspects is getting information back/sending instructions to the rover, so if it takes an extra few hours to get somewhere, or an extra few minutes to process information, it's really Not That Big Of A Deal (tm). As long as they don't try and run Crysis at the same as it tries to lick the dirt, it'll do the job.

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Re: Yes, but...

@mutatedwombat: Yep, the rotor span would have to be big, no denying that. That said, they can make those things very light these days & we're not talking about anything outstanding - just a camera, a widget to know where the rover was & the ability to fly in a circle & then return. It'd give a wider perspective & let the funding citizens see just that bit more & who knows? It might even spot something worth looking at.

Just an idea, anyway.

@Esskay: Yes, you're right about us not wanting it to go too fast but I'd say that A: it could go a bit faster without undue risk & B: more processing power is always worth having - I did say that something from THIS century would be appreciated.

I am, of course, very excited about the Mars program & support it fully.

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Re: Yes, but...

There are plans for a Martian Blimp. That gets round the thin air / big wings issue.

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Re: Yes, but...

the chances of finding anything new every 10 yards is slim, it should stop every 100 yards atleast

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OLDE processors...

The use of old-tech is dictated mainly by the need for highly shielded electronics. Remember that Fobos-Grunt and Dragon were sent up with modern, less-shielded electronics. F-G outright failed and Dragon's very-short mission revealed a hard failure on one-of-three flight control computers.

Only when the market for product sales gets better OR external shielding works better COULD newer technology become practical.

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Happy

Can I just say

All this is soooo exciting! I finally feel as if we're nearing the future I imagined as a kid and it really makes me happy.

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Unhappy

"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," *

* Provided SLS (The only programme NASA is legally forced to perform) doesn't eat the budget for it and everything else of course (subject to the US Legislature agreeing a budget in the 1st place. 26 days and counting ).

NASA has knocked out responsibility for the MPCV service module to ESA, Normally NASA administrators would rather have a live polecat dropped down their pants before considering this option.

8 years is a long in the US federal govt space sector.

Re-use of proven systems is a good idea and if the learning curve kicks in Rover #2 should be lots cheaper than rover 1. Historically doubling the product ->15% cost reduction but this stuff is so unusual they may do better. If they do it at all.

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Re: "The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," *

The MPCV itself isn't being outsourced to the ESA. The Service module component is being changed to be an adapted ATV from the ESA-UK, It is a cost saving measure. Adverse implications about polecats notwithstanding, NASA has done cost-saving missions with the Russians, Indians, Japanese and ESA.

As a taxpayer, I think that it is a good idea.

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Political

Having a budget left after the Senate Launch System (SLS) folds up and dies is one priority. The other is coming up with the Plutonium for the power supply. The US has used up both its and the former USSR's supply of Pu238 oxide. There is some left, but not enough to build another RTG of the same size as Curiosity's. If some new designs prove to be more efficient, NASA may be able to get by with what they have, but the clock is ticking and other programs would love to get their hands on the supply for other missions.

The power supply is not a reactor, it uses the natural decay heat of the oxide to generate power. The supply is big for its power output, but they last for years. The Voyager spacecraft are still operating and talking to Earth after over 30years. Many space scientists have and continue to lobby the government to reopen a reactor that will produce the "flavor" of radioactive material they need. Another hurdle is to resurrect a facility to process the rods to extract the Pu. President Carter put a ban into place that forbad reprocessing nuclear fuel in the US that was eventually reversed (by President Ford, I think), but facilities were never built or reopened.

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Go

Re: Senate Launch System

Sounds like a plan to me. Where will they send them? Is Mars far enough?

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Re: Political

Actually I'm sure I read recently that a lab in the US (Oak Ridge?) had been given permission/funding to restart Pu238 production. Having said that, I'm having difficulty finding an actual link other than a mention in this Wired article: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/11/radioactive-stirling-engine-exploration/ (last few paragraphs)

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Unhappy

Re: Political

" If some new designs prove to be more efficient, NASA may be able to get by with what they have, but the clock is ticking and other programs would love to get their hands on the supply for other missions"

If Curiosity is running on the older RTG design a new (Stirling) generator is roughly 4x as efficient but it does have (some) moving parts (although they are all sealed inside).

IIRC the big problem with Pu238 is twofold. The law has always been interpreted to mean that the DoE (and its predecessors) control everything nuclear in the US but only NASA use this. Cue huge congressional bun fight as both NASA and DoD ask for money and Con-gress says it's only really NASA that wants it but only DoE can have the money (because US + Nuclear -> DoE)

The other problem is (apparently) to keep the extraction process simple you want to make the starting material very pure and it's something odd like Neptunium.

Where nuclear is concerned NASA cannot just stuff some material in a fuel pin sized flask, drop it off at their nearest reactor operator, hand them some cash and have them drop it in the nuke to cook for a bit.

but boy would it save a lot of trouble if it could.

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Re: Senate Launch System (SLS)

I have this wicked "vision" of 100 trebuchets arranged outside of Congress, just waiting for their specific Senator to take his (or her) 'seat'.

Once that has occurred, off, in the distance, you hear someone yell: "Let 'er rip!".

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Unhappy

Won't somebody think of the middle-aged?

Jolly nice that they're going to build on the technical success of Curiosity (too early to pronounce on the scientific success), but...

"... another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."

So that'll be about ten years after the Chinese then. I'll be almost 70. Looks like I'm never going to get that holiday on Mars promised to me by my Wonder Book Of Science when I was eight and a half.

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About bloody time!

I always thought this was a good idea with the last set of rovers. They could have build a dozen of these with different experiment packages and had them wandering all over Mars by now doing all sorts of interesting things.

But then they would need a whole lot more staff to run them so that's not going to happen...

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Silver badge

Re: About bloody time!

"They could have build a dozen of these... and had them wandering all over Mars by now"

I have been wondering why, now they have a "proven" platform like Curiosity, they don't build a few of them and send them all at once. It would work out much cheaper on a per-rover basis, and they could land them individually at different points around Mars.

There are probably good reasons why they don't (probably involving money) but it would seem to be the most efficient way to get a load of them out there, and a more efficient use of time as well.

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Re: About bloody time!

Yup it is money!

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Stop

While I am all up for space exploration and scientific research for its own sake, in this current economic climate and with the ever widening wealth/health gap in the US, can these expenditures really be justified?

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Yes

They are a tiny fraction of your national budget, and provide good science for improvement in various areas of your life.

Just fire a handful fewer missiles at places where you think someone might once have hid who said that the US wasn't a land of milk and honey and you'd save alot more for spending on actually providing healthcare...

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Gold badge
Meh

"While I am all up for space exploration and scientific research for its own sake, in this current economic climate and with the ever widening wealth/health gap in the US, can these expenditures really be justified?"

Well....

What the US gov bailed out the US banking industry with (a disaster entirely of their own making) was about NASA's accumulated budget for fifty

Or it's annual budget is < 1/2 what Bernie Madoff stole, which is about what the DoD spends on AirCon for it's overseas bases.

Or 2/3 what Americans spend annually on home delivered pizza. Merkins do like their pies.

It's really not that expensive, creates huge awareness of USA Inc's technology and reputation abroad (like Predator drones and Apache strikes but in a good way) and brings in a fair bit of tourist revenue as well, meanwhile keeping a lot of deeply vested interests more or less happy.

And I'm not even that much of a fan.

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Go

This will be interesting.

I for one can't wait to see the pictures of the Chinese riding around on a mars rover :)

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Re: This will be interesting.

Squint very tightly and turn off the lights. Your can probably see it already.

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WTF?

$1.5bn?

$1.5bn to go an do some experiments on Mars. How about spending that amount on a cure for cancer, who cares if there was life on Mars in the past. Its irrelevant!

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BCS
Stop

Re: $1.5bn?

Yes, or you could just make tobacco illegal and save over a million people a year developing lung cancer.

Or, how about we pull out of Afghanistan a year early, save ourselves £4bn, give £1.5bn to space research and £2.5bn to cancer research?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/defence/8668085/Britain-spent-18-billion-on-war-in-Afghanistan-figures-show.html

The reality is that money spent on extra-terrestrial research is peanuts compared with the amount wasted on terrestrial in-fighting...

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Bronze badge

Re: $1.5bn?

life is a bore without smoking, most cancer is caused by car pollution, passive smoking gets the blame, while most smokers dont get cancer because the body and lungs are used to extra chemicals and fumes

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BCS
FAIL

Re: $1.5bn?

You keep telling yourself that. Research tends to say otherwise:

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/healthyliving/smokingandtobacco/howdoweknow/

I like a pint or three and I'm aware that alcohol also increases cancer risks. If you smoke, and enjoy it, then fair enough but please don't pretend that it's not the biggest single factor in a large number of cancers.

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Re: $1.5bn?

I dont need to keep telling myself, the human body has been breathing plant smoke for a million years, research will always blame smoking instead of man made pollution with unnateral chemicals in

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Meh

Re: $1.5bn?

"How about spending that amount on a cure for cancer, who cares if there was life on Mars in the past. Its irrelevant!"

Which one?

There are about 200.

Do you want to remove all cancer genes form people? That would mean re engineering the human race.

Or eliminate the top 5 cancer triggers in the environment. So that requires an outright ban on tobacco for a start.

People know how to substantially lower their cancer risks. It's not a secret.

They just don't want to do it.

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Re Curiosity Two could potentially meet its father

"Luke, I am Your Father." I think C2 has been named already.

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