SÃO PAULO, Brazil – In Curiosity Rover’s two years traveling Mars, he made some fascinating discoveries on the planet:
- Mars has two types of water-rich minerals that create a source of electromagnetic energy, which could be used by a living organism.
- Water is considered safe to drink if you are the adventurous type.
- There is carbon dioxide snow on the planet.
- Radiation levels encountered on a trip to Mars exceed the lifespan allowed for humans – meaning the trip would not be safe for humans without additional protection.
Luke Dubord, avionics systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the Mars Curiosity mission, shared these details with a delighted audience of on-board designer engineers during his speech at ESC Brazil on August 27. % of all Mars landings to date have been successful.
While Curiosity has exceeded expectations on every aspect of its mission, one thing it won’t do is investigate the interior of Mars. In fact, this type of exploration has never been done on any planet – ever. But find evidence of activities such as earthquakes – or more exactly in this case March tremors – could provide important clues on the formation of the planet.
“We now know a lot of interesting details about the surface of Mars, but we don’t know anything about what lies below the surface,” Dubord said. That will change with the next Mars mission in 2016, for which Dubord’s team is partnering with NASA’s Planetary Science Division to do an inner exploration of the planet.
Launched in October 2016, the mission will deploy a set of instruments designed to conduct seismic surveys. The instrument also features a “mole,” which is essentially a high-tech hammer that will cut its way three meters below the surface to study the properties of materials at that depth.
NASA is also planning a second mission to Mars in 2020 based on the Curiosity Rover design, which featured many technologies never tried before, such as the Skycrane Transporter. In July, NASA announced the instruments which will be part of the mission payload.
“We have a good run,” Dubord said, noting that concluding with Curiosity, NASA has made four consecutive and successful launches to Mars. “Of course, with a failure rate of 50%, we are progressing towards the average, which perhaps suggests that we now have something to worry about.”
Dubord pointed out that dealing with the complexity of systems is the biggest challenge for engineers. “Most of the things we build are basically systems of systems, the chips themselves are systems on a chip and they interact with other systems,” he said. “It breeds complexity.”
To emphasize this point, Dubord said he never discovered a bug that was totally obvious. “Just finding the bug is the hard part, and the more complex the system, the harder it becomes.”
The problem is compounded by the fact that very large teams work together on these systems. “Engineering is one of the few areas where your success depends on the success of others,” Dubord said. “What I mean is the radar guy just has to believe the parachute guy has done his job, just like the parachute guy has to trust the radar guy has done his job.
– Karen Field, Director of Content, EE live and EE Times