What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory) Set to Launch on Saturday

November 24, 2011, 3:12 PM
Mars_curiosity_rover_redplanet_michio_kaku_mk_mkaku_kaku_media_scitech_scitechfb_michiokaku_bigthink_bt_imaginaryfoundation

My August 20th blog entry, "MARS Updates Including The Curiosity Rover, The Flow of Liquid Water and Possible Manned Missions" mentioned that NASA was preparing to launch its latest Mars probe, Curiosity (or the Mars Science Laboratory) sometime after Thanksgiving. It appears that everything is right on schedule because NASA announced yesterday that all systems appear to be set for a launch this Saturday (Nov, atop an Atlas 5 rocket. As NASA only has a small window of opportunity each two years, to shoot a space probe at Mars -- After analysis, it was shown that the 26th would be ideal to coincide with that window. The only thing that they have to be concerned with now is the expected gusts of wind and increased cloud cover. 

According to a recent article by Space.com, the 10:02 a.m. EST launch on Saturday is expecting crowds in record numbers. NASA states that they are expecting over 13,000 people which will break previous records for the launch of a robotic spacecraft. The crowd number will certainly stack up to the over 12,000 spectators that showed up this summer to witness the Juno spacecraft which launched to Jupiter.  

Curiosity has to travel for almost nine months and cover a distance of over 350 million-miles before it touches down with the surface of the red planet. Curiosity has a plethora of upgrades from previous rovers and has high hopes of gathering vast amounts of new data. Much larger than its predecessors, Curiosity will be powered by a plutonium-powered battery which will allow it to collect measurements throughout both the day and night, continuously at an average of about 600 feet per day. Some of the other instrumentation as part of the Curiosity Science Payload (via the Mars Science Laboratory Fact Sheet). 

  • Mars Hand Lens Imager: will take extreme close-up pictures of rocks, soil and, if present, ice, revealing details smaller than the width of a human hair. It will also be able to focus on hard-to-reach objects more than an arm’s length away.
  • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer: will determine the elemental chemistry of rocks and soils accurately in order to complement and constrain the mineralogical analyses of the other instruments. Analyzing the elemental make-up of martian surface materials will provide scientists with information about crustal formation, weathering processes, and water activity on Mars.Mast Camera: mounted at about human-eye height, will image the rover’s surroundings in high-resolution stereo and color,  with the capability to take and store high-definition video sequences. It will also be used for viewing materials collected or treated by the arm.
  • ChemCam: will use laser pulses to vaporize thin layers of material from Martian rocks or soil targets up to 7 meters (23 feet) away. It will include both a spectrometer to identify the types of atoms excited by the beam, and a telescope to capture detailed images of the area illuminated by the beam. 
  • Mars Descent Imager: will capture color, high-definition video of the landing region to provide geological context for the investigations on the ground and to aid precise determination of the landing site.

Once Curiosity touches down on the martian surface, its mission is expected to last about two Earth years. If all of the new instruments work properly, we will be proud to say that the new data will be the first of its kind. We will finally have a detailed makeup and analysis of the martian rocks and soil to help us determine the presence of past or current microbial life and/or organic compounds. From the moment that Curiosity enters the Mars atmosphere, it will be streaming useful data such as a continuous stream of high resolution photography. Don't hold your breath, we will of course have to wait until August of 2012 before it even arrives.

There is no doubt that technological advancements have come a long way since the development of the original rovers. Curiosity is without question the most sophisticated and technological marvel of its kind; to examine another planet's chemical and geological history, directly from the surface using a man-made machine. It is also without question that we will be flooded with vast amounts of data about the Martian environment that will keep scientists and geologists busy for years to come. As mentioned above, we've still got a lot of waiting to do before even the first snapshot is taken.

Until then... 

 

Curiosity (Mars Science Lab...

Newsletter: Share: