Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Clean Room


Today's post is especially for longtime reader and encourager, Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife! She wanted to see inside the "clean room" of the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), otherwise known as "Curiosity Rover" is being prepared for her trip to Mars!

I took a fair amount of photographs from the viewing gallery on my first trip to the SAF, capturing the Curiosity and her Sky Crane. To review more about this interesting new (but possibly risky?) Entry Descent & Landing (EDL), also see my previous post about how the MSL will land on Mars.

Mars Curiosity
See where that arrow is pointing? I've now stood right beneath the Live Curiosity Cam twice and watched the many mummy-wrapped technicians skittering meaningfully about, tinkering with all the fascinating hardware which will launch toward the red planet this November!

Did you Send Your Name To Mars on the MSL? When all was said and done for the etching all our names on the deck microship, precisely 1,246,445 names were entered from all over the world. Curiosity will take them all into space!

The rover you see in this video, and in my photo galleries is about the size of a car, and about the same weight, at 1,982 imperial pounds. That's just under a TON.

How does that stack up against previous critters send to ROVE all about Mars? Well the first, the Sojourner, was 23 pounds (10.6 kilograms). Around the size of your average microwave oven.

The Spirit and Opportunity Rovers were each 408 pounds (185 kilograms). Curiosity dwarfs them at 900 kilograms, and will also yield the most advanced science and photography, provided she lands safely in 2012.

Today, is the very last day you will be able to watch the Live Curiosity Cam! After that, we'll only have amateur video, like my shaky stuff above! So watch for her final huzzah today, and join the last Thursday Chat at 9am PT (1600 UT) for your last glimpse of development and testing!