Curiosity - way too cool. Sunday.

Not sure how many are following it, but we all ought to, as it is remarkably cool.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

Personally, the whole "Sky Crane" thing is too awesome for words. I only wish we had a camera on the ground to see this freaking thing in action!

Particularly impressive is that this system is totally autonomous. Re-entry and landing will take about seven minutes, while command and control messaging takes fourteen minutes. It's simply not possible to control remotely. Nuclear powered, the size of a car, weighing over a ton- one of the most advanced robots ever built. Awesome. (but where can I get one of them there Plutonium batteries?)

Can't wait.

I watched a BBC2 Horizon TV programme about it, last night.

(but where can I get one of them there Plutonium batteries?)

I read something once that Honda figured out a way to power a car using Nuclear technology. If I remember correctly it would work in a similar way as a Nuclear submarine would with water recirculation. Naturally, the public can not be trusted with Nuclear devices so, that is where it ended.

If I remember right, it's a thermoelectric cell just driven by the heat of plutonium decay.. I don't think there is an active fission reactor as is found on submarines, and the heat is also circulated throughout the lander to prevent some of the cold-related problems encountered before.

(After checking, yep.. that's the design.. decay heat to thermoelectric, 110 watts)

It's like something Gerry Anderson (Thunderbirds, etc) would have invented!

This is remarkably complicated. I hope it works.

All embedded.

It will have landed for 7 minutes before they even get a signal. Crazy.

It really is miraculous what NASA does with the tiny budget they are given.

$2.5 Billion project. Sounded like successful landing this morning. Neat the way they used one of the on-surface rovers to relay messages to Earth as the landing was proceeding.

dannable: It's like something Gerry Anderson (Thunderbirds, etc) would have invented!

Absolutely. They really should have made the skycrane look like Thunderbird 2 (the original one, not the one from that awful movie).

This is what amazed me, they got a picture of it from one of the orbiters as it descended.

Who ho, that is cool!

I can't believe JPL. Most U.S. Mars missions have involved JPL and 14 of the 19 U.S. missions succeeded.

Only 2 of the 21 Mars missions by other countries have succeeded. The score is now Earth 16 Mars 24.

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=4181

Not bad for a 27 year old RTOS on an old 200 MHz PowerPC 750 (Mac G3). Curiosity has two RAD750 processors, one primary and one backup. It's normal for computing technology to be way out of date when space missions fly.

JPL used the VxWorks RTOS on this mission. I did a project in 1985 with VxWorks.

Two of my colleagues quit the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab where we worked, formed Wind River Systems, and developed VxWorks. I contracted with them for the first release of VxWorks and used it in a small project.

We had VXWorks on a 166 MHZ Pentium in the mid 200'0's at my previous company on a embebbed processor. Almost like an oversized Arduino!

I piped the HD TV (Ustream) from NASA on my TV screen and enjoyed the show. If it wasnt for webcasting I would have seen nothing. (not interesting enough for the general public)

AFAIK no Arduino was involved in this mission ... ? :)

Probably not. Doubt its a rad hard technology.

NASA requires DoD Category 1A Accreditation of Trust in addition to radiation-harding. That make the RAD750 cost $200,000 each.

I am sure the Arduino doesn't have DoD Category 1A Accreditation of Trust.

Too bad the Raspberry Pi can't qualify since it would be more powerful at $35. Actually the RAD750 has twice as much RAM as the Pi but that could be fixed.

Irrelevant fact: You can download the music (.mp3) for that "7 minutes of terror video". It is stuck in my brain in an infinite loop.

On that note, the "6 vehicle configurations" and the autonomous nature of the landing, I was idly pondering; what sort of Arduino based project could one build that has the same complexity charateristics, but scaled down 1000-fold? My first though would be something like a vehicle launched from my front door, that would drive down the street (Earth-Mars transit), cross an intersection (atmospheric entry) and a smaller part of it (all that jetissoning of transport shells) enter a store and go to particular spot (determined beforehand, with measurements). All that 100% automatic with the front door launch being timed so it fits the intersection light cycle. Actual price scanning would be partially remote controlled from my home.

No I am not building it. Fantasy-ware works first time and without hidden bugs :) but I think an interesting mind-experiment.

What's that double-wheel quadrant symbol mean? See: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/559075main_pia14253-43_946-710.jpg

It looks familiar to me, but I sure can't place it.

Don't know. Looks to be ends of motor shafts?