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back to article Curiosity gets an OS upgrade, plans new round of selfies

NASA's laser-armed, nuclear-powered space tank Curiosity has upgraded its operating system. The rover will trundle into the new year running version 11 of its system software, which NASA says “brings expanded capability for using the Curiosity's robotic arm while the vehicle is on slopes. It also improves flexibility for storing …

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Anonymous Coward

"Curiosity has been visiting rocky ground of late and mission scientists are worried that's not been good for its six aluminium wheels. By snapping some close-ups of its wheels, NASA's astroboffins hope to learn more about how they cope with the Martian surface."

They should have called the experts at Tire Rack.

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RE: nuclear-powered space tank Curiosity has upgraded its operating system.

Thank $DEITY it doesn't use Windoze, because the console screen would be stuck at

"Update completed. Press any key to continue..."

But, if we NASA were lucky, and had gotten it to reboot, chances are it would have gotten stuck displaying:

"Configuring Windows Updates

15% Complete"

Thank $DEITY they use a real operating system.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE: nuclear-powered space tank Curiosity has upgraded its operating system.

It does look like they've decided to wait for the .1 release

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But not *too* real.

May 25 23:07:07 curiosity powerd: device unreachable

May 25 23:07:08 curiosity powerd: Pu on fire

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Editorial Conventions

I find it interesting they refer to the rover as 'the Curiosity', not simply 'Curiosity'. I guess there haven't actually been that many spacecraft, so there hasn't been much of a push to adopt traditional maritime editorial conventions.

You wouldn't see a sentence constructed like that if it were in reference to a marine vessel. Since space exploration has (kind of) adopted maritime editorial conventions, they might want to send an editor or two to one of the maritime writers workshops at the Naval Academy. They've got a good writing class for civilians at Naval Station Norfolk as well.

Not that I'm knocking them, but maritime writing and editorial conventions are a big thing. It's part of why everything written about them seems so much different and more important than say, a car. I think it's good that material written about important things maintain their aloofness to maintain a higher level of respect.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Editorial Conventions

Seeing as NASA has just cut back its budget for planetary science, I'll forgive them some sub-editing foibles. Whaddyareckon?

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Happy

Re: Editorial Conventions

Budget woes are an even better reason to really polish your A-game; Señor APAC Editor... Little details are important, doubly so when you're having to fight for every penny you can get.

Since the US Chapter of the Flat Earth Society (aka Congress) already hammers NASA so hard, I can only imagine how severely they'd be beaten if they thought NASA wasn't a leadership organization of the highest standards. As it is, the only reason Congress doesn't bleed NASA even worse is because it really is rocket science :)

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Photos of the wheel damage went up over the weekend

http://news.discovery.com/space/martian-wear-and-tear-curiositys-wheel-damage-photos-131220.htm#mkcpgn=rssnws1

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Surprised Elon Musk hasn't considered selling trundly Mars rovers as the most secure kind of off-site backup.

Bit on the slow side, but should survive most things.

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Legs v Wheels

I still think they would have been better with a multi legged robot as they could accommodate multi height configurations,increased stability over soft ground and completely eradicate issues they have presently with wheel rim damage.

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Re: Legs v Wheels

What multi-leg technology existed in 2011 when this was launched?

The Boston Dynamics stuff is all absolute state of the art as we move into 2014 & seems to require more electrical power (via a petrol generator) than the rover can provide even now. I don't think we'll see robots running around mars just yet.

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Re: Legs v Wheels

> better with a multi legged robot

Legs are far more complex with dozens of more points of failure, and wheels are an extremely mature technology. If you care about reliability, you use wheels.

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Re: Legs v Wheels

Yep. Wheels have accumulated over 100km of travel between a handful of extraterrestrial rovers.

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Raw images for everyone

It's worth repeating that NASA put all of the raw images for this mission online almost immediately for anyone interested to look at:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/

The MAHLI camera is used for these wheel inspections - http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?s=490&camera=MAHLI

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Wheels

They were showing a large amount of indentations last time they imaged them so it will be interesting to see what a few more miles on the clock have done.

As for Wheels v Legs just how many energy conserving animals on Earth do you see with wheels?

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Re: Wheels

"As for Wheels v Legs just how many energy conserving animals on Earth do you see with wheels?"

The reason for lack of wheels is due to the scarcity of sapient pearwood, although the following link claims there's other reasons for the missing wheels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotating_locomotion_in_living_systems

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Happy

Re: Wheels

Conserving does not mean using a minimum of anything. It means maximizing the use of what you have. There is no evolutionary mechanism that demands efficiency. Evolution only deals with the continuous refinement to systems created by the effectively random combinations of genetic and biological material between animals.

Evolution will alter animals in successive generations to better suit their current environment, but will not create the animal itself. The effective result being that if a walrus and a Volvo interbred the second generation Walvos might have snow tires (in a snowy environment) and improved axle bearings. The coming together of the walrus and the Volvo was due to either drunkenness or rape. A normally functioning Volvo and walrus would have no biological imperative to mate under normal circumstances.

Anyway, the biggest reason you don't see animals with wheels is that for wheels to turn under power you have to change the direction energy is traveling and that's incredibly difficult to do bio-mechanically. Animals produce linear power because it is the least complex way of transferring energy. For energy to turn something that something has to be:

A) Unattached to adjoining components in order to rotate freely. In an animal that would require hollow bones, replaceable bearings (the bearings couldn't be attached to the system in order to regenerate and finding a qualified mechanic will be tough).

B) Have either a completely independent drive system for each wheel (direct drive) or a central drive system that requires a shitload of gears to change the direction the energy is traveling.

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Boffin

Re: Wheels

As for Wheels v Legs just how many energy conserving animals on Earth do you see with wheels?

I don't see any unless I'm using a microscope, in which case I see LOTS! Well, maybe not wheels exactly, but propellers. Bacterial flagella are truly rotating structures, and there are so many flagellated bacteria that rotation might actually be the most common form of locomotion in living organisms.

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Thumb Up

Lego Curiosity

Well I know what I am spending my Christmas Money on now!

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/wiki/Rotating_locomotion_in_living_systems

So why make an exploration machine with wheels if they are fundamentally less useful over uneven land?

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Re: /wiki/Rotating_locomotion_in_living_systems

"So why make an exploration machine with wheels if they are fundamentally less useful over uneven land?"

Wheels are highly reliable compared to tracks, and highly reliable and very proven compared to robotic legs. They might not have the all-terrain capability of tracks and legs, but obstacles are avoidable whereas hardware failures are harder to fix on Mars. With advanced imaging of the target zone (e.g., Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), you can avoid the largest obstacles to wheels.

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Anonymous Coward

Was Wolowitz driving the Mars rover again?

How do you put a gash that size in a metallic wheel when your top speed is 90 meters/hour? I could understand if the rover were going 30 MPH and hit a rock, but at .085 MPH?

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Ballerina syndrome

I guess its all down to designed structure strength v weight distribution,a tad like designing it to balance on a razor blade without getting cut but limiting the weight to a minimum.

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One question that hasn't been asked

Does the new OS have an Instagram app built in so that it can share the selfies?

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Flame

Why aluminum

Looking at this:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=5869

They do have a problem. There are stronger and as light materials as aluminum. How many miles did they try to run it on earth. This reminds me of descendants to Shackleton who made a trip to the south pole in memory of him. For that they choose ice spikes, or what ever they are called, made of aluminum, to attach under their boots. They lasted for a day or two, something any +12 year old kid living in any northern part of Europe or North America would understand without even touching them. Nice guys nice program, But then again Shackleton was the guy who decided horses are fine, the guy who was unable to work out how much food was needed and equally unable to grasp how to dress in that climate. A national hero and a complete fool, beaten only by Scott. If I am mean it's because Santa Claus has not arrived yet.

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Boffin

Re: Why aluminum - Strength Is Not The Reason!!!

Strength means generically 'strong' to most people. As an engineer who makes ultra high precision systems and components, 'strength' means nothing to me, I have to know 'strong' how. The how is going to be a function of how the material will be used, the material itself, what form it needs to take, the materials it will be in contact with, how it is processed and how much you want to spend. There's a lot more involved, obviously, but that's a good short list.

Using that list, it is an enormous challenge to find the most suitable material for exotic projects, like a Mars rover. Among the known factors, exotic projects often have significant unknown variables and my job as an engineer is to assess the project and calculate around those unknowns and select what I believe will be the most suitable material that meets all the requirements, not some of or most of, but all of.

Aluminum and its various alloys are often the go to material because it meets those criteria in a huge majority of situations. When you consider the unknowns it is foolish and extremely expensive to use an exotic material that has its own wacky hangups and meet the requirements.

You'd look pretty stupid if you put a rover on Mars and the wheels rusted off 11 hours after it arrived :) There are simply too many unknowns to go introducing more by using expensive exotic materials. Do you want to pay $15k per wheel or $65k per wheel if you can't be sure how the material will act once it gets where it's going.

I'll leave you with this. Here at my shop, we are generally regarded as a (if not the) world leader in the processing and use of titanium and its alloys. It's what most of my patents are built around and although we create things from all manner of materials, titanium is our specialty. It's a wonderful material for some applications, but about 99.7% of the time It's really, really dumb to use titanium. People think Ti is super strong, but it really isn't all that. It's rather lightweight and doesn't oxidize too badly which are its strongpoints, but overall plain old copper is less prone to failing in situations where Ti has been used. If it wasn't for the oxidation problems and weight of copper it would be better than Ti in nearly any application.

In closing, 'strength' in a material is defined as how appropriate the material is for its task. That makes something strong, not how hard it is to bend or break.

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