Tag: Pasadena California

Compelled by curiosity

Wonderful news and a fabulous achievement!

I’m writing this as 5.40 am on the 6th.  I let our ‘bedroom’ dogs out for their early-morning pee some 20 minutes ago and then jumped back in bed, turned on my Kindle and went to the BBC News website.  There I read,

Nasa’s Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars

The US space agency has just landed a huge new robot rover on Mars.

The one-tonne vehicle, known as Curiosity, was reported to have landed in a deep crater near the planet’s equator at 06:32 BST (05:32 GMT).

It will now embark on a mission of at least two years to look for evidence that Mars may once have supported life.

A signal confirming the rover was on the ground safely was relayed to Earth via Nasa’s Odyssey satellite, which is in orbit around the Red Planet.

The success was greeted with a roar of approval here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

As David Shukman, Science Editor of the BBC, wrote,

The day I watched Curiosity being built in a clean room at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena last year, the rover’s six wheels were lying on one work bench while the chassis stood on another and it was hard to believe the white-suited engineers could make sense of the maze of tubes and cabling.

But what they’ve created now stands on the red soil of Mars – and it’s in one piece. In the hallway of a JPL building we were shown a full-size replica. Walking around it made me realise something difficult to grasp from the pictures and video: this is a beast of a machine, a kind of cosmic Humvee with instruments instead of weapons.

Sometimes Nasa public relations can appear bragging. Today it feels justified. Curiosity is all set to discover something remarkable about our strangest neighbour.

Well said and people from all around the world will echo those sentiments.

When I read what Patrice wrote in my Setting the scene post not so many hours ago,

Well, OK, keeping my fingers, and even my arms, crossed here. Seems to me the “sky crane” is over-complex, and I was not reassured when one of the physicist-engineers boasted that they had run the landing millions of time on simulator. Yeap, OK, how many times for real in Earth’s gravity?
I don’t see why they could not have landed normally, LEM style. Especially as they have wheels and could have rolled away to find undistrubed land.
There are no back-ups…
OK, let’s hope I’m wrong to be suspicious…
PA

I instinctively agreed and hoped his worries were misplaced.  They were!  The Curiosity rover is down!  Good luck to the Rover and all those who made it possible.  Well done, the team!

Adjust your alarm clock!

A fascinating, perhaps even non-trivial, insight into that massive earthquake.

(Thanks to the website Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis for giving me a heads-up to this aspect of the ‘quake.)

MISH’s website pointed me to the website Space.com where there was this interesting reflection.

The massive earthquake that struck northeast Japan Friday (March 11) has shortened the length Earth’s day by a fraction and shifted how the planet’s mass is distributed.

A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth’s spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Gross refined his estimates of the Japan quake’s impact – which previously suggested a 1.6-microsecond shortening of the day – based on new data on how much the fault that triggered the earthquake slipped to redistribute the planet’s mass. A microsecond is a millionth of a second.

“By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds,” Gross told SPACE.com in an e-mail. More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added.

The scenario is similar to that of a figure skater drawing her arms inward during a spin to turn faster on the ice. The closer the mass shift during an earthquake is to the equator, the more it will speed up the spinning Earth.

I was also interested to read in that article more confirmation that the earthquake moved Japan! (I had mentioned it in an earlier post on Learning from Dogs.)

The initial data suggests Friday’s earthquake moved Japan’s main island about 8 feet, according to Kenneth Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake also shifted Earth’s figure axis by about 6 1/2 inches (17 centimeters), Gross added.

The Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph). The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth’s mass is balanced and the north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

“This shift in the position of the figure axis will cause the Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but will not cause a shift of the Earth’s axis in space – only external forces like the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon, and planets can do that,” Gross said.

So if you are the sort of person that likes to be precisely on time ….. take note!