Curiosity – on Mars. The secret to their success

Successfully reached the surface of Mars apparatus Curiosity (“Curiosity”) will receive and transmit data to Earth on the global climate, the composition and temperature of the atmosphere.And also to clarify information about the geology of Mars, Mars rovers have previously received the Spirit and Opportunity. But the main task of Curiosity – the discovery of extraterrestrial life forms, or at least evidence of its existence in the past.
What he seeks in a far country?

It should be immediately clear that humanity in the face of NASA, not just looking for signs of life, and in our life, the earthly sense. That is the one that is based on the polymer molecules formed from chains of carbon atoms.Other forms of carbon necessary for life elements – oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. They are looking for something and the American rover.

No one, however, did not say that life can not be arranged differently, for example, based on chains of silicon atoms. Although silicon – silicon – polymers have long been part of our lives, and working women in show business even became part of their own anatomy, silicon life in other worlds, no one has been looking for.

Of course, serious scientists hope to find on the Red Planet mammals such as Aelita. It’s about finding microorganisms, most likely, even their remains, as well as chemical elements, without which the carbon life is impossible. To do this, Curiosity has special equipment. One of the alpha-ray spectrometer APXS Canadian-American production. And the source of alpha particles in the spectrometer was designed by our specialists from Dimitrovgrad using isotope curium-244. The spectrometer APXS will determine elemental composition of Martian rocks, having a particularly high sensitivity to sulfur and halogens.

To recognize the type of Martian rocks – volcanic or sedimentary – detecting and determining the structure of minerals with chemically bound water is the instrument ChemCam, designed by renowned specialist in Los Alamos and French specialists. The device generates pulses of infrared laser that burns the object of study, such as land species, and it analyzes the spectrum of the evaporated species.

Apparatus CheMin, developed by various independent entities NASA, designed for the analysis of soil ground, extracted from the surface of Mars, a special drill, mounted on Curiosity.

The American and French experts have designed a device SAM, whose task – the analysis of organic compounds that may be present in the rocks of the planet’s surface.

Finally, the probe pulse neutron generator is installed, DAN, invented exclusively by Russian scientists and engineers from the Russian Space Agency, Rosatom, and Dubna, and the Institute for Space Studies. This device is a modernized domestic HEND device has already proved its efficiency and for the first time in 2002 opened the deposits of water ice under a layer of dust on Mars. DAN is designed to detect hydrogen and ice near the surface of Mars, where ice and water out there – these are signs of possible life, which can be the basis of carbon from the atmosphere of the Red Planet.

Only a few devices that are installed on Curiosity, should study the meteorological and radiation environment on the planet. The latter is particularly important for the survival of the crew of a future human expedition to Mars.In addition, the rover is equipped with a set of devices used for testing: In addition to the drill is a hand-arm, and a set of cameras and camcorders, the system of communication with Earth, powerful computers and, of course, chassis and powertrain. Challenge, which is not response

To carry out these large-scale study, the rover – the size, among other things, a car weighing nearly a ton – to be delivered to the Red Planet in perfectly good condition. This is a brilliantly managed by NASA. No wonder the successful landing Curiosity they have met such an explosion of delight, which never happened, it seems, since the first expedition of the American astronauts to the moon. For the current operation using multi-stage scheme to reduce the speed with space to an acceptable landing.

In the first stage down wind from the rover capsule slowed down due to evaporation heat shield to the speed of the two sound velocities in the Martian atmosphere, allowing the parachute to open. Then, at an altitude of 10 kilometers in rarefied atmosphere of the planet, the pressure at the surface of which a hundred times smaller than Earth, was discovered parachute diameter of 16 meters. It is possible to reduce the rate of descent to 110 meters per second. 
At a distance of two kilometers from the planet’s surface parachute was dropped and joined braking rocket engines that are located on the towing unit over the rover. These engines are part of the original, never before used a system of “sky crane”. The rover is connected to this “heavenly crane” nylon ropes, which provides landing from a height of eight meters from the surface. “Sky Crane” hovered above the surface and pulled on the ropes rover, which is like a cat, gently down on all of its six “legs”. Previously, to mitigate the impact on the surface of the bags were used, but the “sky crane” was much more effective.

As you know, the whole process of delivery took place without a hitch and the rover had already begun to transfer color photographs of the Martian surface in the crater Gale. It was there that had previously been found promising deep layers of Martian soil, especially interesting to achieve the objectives of the expedition: the search for life.

Alas, the very next day after landing Curiosity was another bad start our “Proton” and the transformation of two expensive satellites in space debris. No comparisons can not do here, and the natural question arises: so that NASA can not for the umpteenth time to realize its ambitious plans, and successfully carry out highly complex space expedition?

The answer to this lies, of course, not in the intellectual superiority of American scientists and engineers, especially since many of them are our former compatriots. And not just in the power of American industry, the effectiveness of new technologies. As rightly noted Russian cosmonaut from the Hollywood film “Armageddon”, all the electronics still made in Taiwan, including the Russian Space Agency, and probably used.

Most likely, the case in the organization of the design and manufacture of space vehicles, in the principles of coordination, planning and implementation of the expeditions.

I can not say that our space ships are wholly made in one single company. But the level of responsibilities, cooperation in the establishment of American spacecraft is truly unprecedented. Suffice it to say that the list of developers and manufacturers of the same Curiosity would take the entire amount of this article. And, most importantly, NASA does not hesitate to use the foreign firms, both public and especially private ones, in the development of new technology. The selection of contractors and their products are under heavy control by NASA experts, not as we do in Russia, where, under the notorious Law 94-FZ wins the tender the company, which offered the cheapest option order execution, and certainly not the best. Not to mention are old-old “kickbacks.”And to get an order from NASA for a private company as prestigious, and profitable, that anyone would think of moonlight.

It is important to recall that it was invented in America, a scientific organization of labor and sold the idea of redistribution maximize production, and these traditions are carefully followed. And last but not least to be remembered, preserved the highest prestige occupations of space in the U.S.. 

 


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