We're engineers, scientists and the Curiosity rover from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. Ask us anything!
UPDATE: It's time for us to get back to our regularly scheduled science. Thanks so much for all your great questions. Most of the team is logging out now, but we'll check back over the next few hours and days and answer more questions as time permits. Wishing you karma and lucky peanuts... -- Curiosity https://twitter.com/marscuriosity/status/629054707470733312
We're celebrating the third "landiversary" of the Curiosity Mars rover. She touched down Aug. 6, 2012, in Eastern Time and UTC, but it was still Aug. 5 here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. We're looking forward to your questions about the mission so far, our roles on it and the continuing science in Mars' Gale Crater.
Fred Calef -- "Keeper of the Maps" (@cirquelar)
Steve Collins -- aka "NASA Hippy Guy" from landing night. Now contributing behind-the-scenes ops tools (@longhairnasaguy)
Nagin Cox -- Mission Lead/Tactical Uplink Lead (@nasa_nagin)
Joy Crisp -- Deputy Project Scientist
Steve Lee -- Deputy Project Manager (@LeeCuriosity)
Kim Lichtenberg -- Mission Operations Engineer. SAM Instrument Engineer (@marssciencegrad)
Carolina Martinez -- Mars Public Engagement (@NASABeAMartian)
Michael Mischna -- Science Operations Working Group chair (coordinator of daily science activities) and an atmospheric scientist
Katie Stack -- Planetary geologist; geology liaison between the Curiosity rover scientists and engineers (@kstackmorgan)
And the Curiosity Mars rover, with help from the JPL Social Media Team (@NASAJPL)
Veronica McGregor -- JPL News & Social Media Manager (@veronicamcg)
Sasha Samochina -- JPL Social Media Specialist (@cloudsasha)
Stephanie L. Smith -- JPL Social Media Specialist (@stephist)
Definitely, the discovery that that Yellowknife Bay was once a habitable environment. We learned that with the first drill hole on Mars!
Did you feel sad when Mark Watney ignored curiosity rover on his way to MVA?
Edit: MAV, not MVA.
It really wasn't in his drive path. (Yes, I checked) - Fred
Why is NASA even bothering with human mission planning to Mars? Can't robots do everything humans can without all the dying and complaining?
Robots can do a lot. We tend to send them first to figure things out, but there is no substitute for having human eyeballs hands and brains on-site. I'm looking forward to future expansion of the human "flight envelope". Steve Collins
What computer language(s) does Curiosity use? Is it something common like C# or something unique to NASA?
Most of the software is written in C. Steve Collins
Nah-- I'm much more about very slow autocross. With steering motors in my two front and two rear wheels, and drive motors in all six wheels, I can do some pretty great donuts, though.
Will Curiosity have a quad-copter buddy anytime soon?
Have you seen the prototype Mars helicopter under development at JPL? (WANT) While I won't have one, it's possible that a future mission will. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpBsFzjyRO8
There is certainly discussion of how helpful it would be to have the ability to see "over the hill" and there is now early development going on addressing "UAVs" on Mars- Nagin
There is certainly discussion of how helpful it would be to have the ability to see "over the hill" and there is now early development going on addressing "UAVs" on Mars- Nagin
Thank you for your answer! Would the atmosphere make it harder for something to fly?
we definitely have to take into consideration that the atmosphere is much more thin so there is less for the UAV blades to "grab" onto - Nagin
What is the most exciting thing you've learned from Curiosity's mission so far?
So many things but here are the top 6 science results we have found with Curiosity:
- Ancient Mars had the right chemistry to support living microbes
- Organic carbon found in Mars rocks
- Present and active methane in the atmosphere
- Radiation could pose a health risk for humans
- A thicker atmosphere and more water in Mars' past
- Evidence of an ancient streambed
More details at: http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/science/results/
Carolina - Mars Public Engagement
I was excited by seeing that just below the surface, Red Mars is actually Gray Mars! -Michael
Can you briefly describe why that is? I'd think with all the dust storms, that we'd see more gray Mars...
Mars' oxidizing atmosphere tends to turn iron-bearing minerals exposed at the surface a reddish color. But it turns out that there are iron-bearing minerals on Mars that haven't been fully oxidized, despite exposure to the Martian atmosphere! -Katie S.
For me, it's that (almost) all the rocks we've driven over are water deposited. From orbit, the morphology (i.e. 'shape') of the landforms indicated water was involved, but the amount, to me, was surprising. -Fred
How many of you play Kerbal Space Program?
I have once or twice. Sort of feels a lot like work...
What technology do you wish you could have put on the rover and what would it's purpose be?
A higher mounted camera to see farther and over low-lying features. Also, some kind of ground penetrating radar (GPR) to see bedrock layers underneath us. GPR will be on the future Mars2020 rover. - Fred
For those of us without a degree in a STEM subject area, how can we help promote Curiosity's mission and other aspects of space exploration?
Talk to your friends about it. Bake Mars Rover cookies. Design a funny space-hat and wear it about in public Steve Collins
By doing what you just did and joining the conversation.
Becoming a Solar System Ambassador: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssa/home.cfm Following the mission progress on the web and sharing it with friends and family: http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/
There are also many partners/volunteers networks you can join, more on them here: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/nnw/home.cfm
Carolina - Mars Public Engagement
What are your thoughts on privatized space exploration?
There is so much to be done in solar system exploration that it is great to have commercial companies jumping into the game. They can often address technical problems with a fresh perspective that is great for everyone - Nagin
Have any of you read "The Martian" or plan to see the film when it comes out?
Yes and yes. Probably no surprise but I'm a big science fiction fan. I really enjoyed the hard science of "The Martian" and how it was interwoven so well with an intensely dramatic story. [minor spoiler alert] Of course, I have a small objection to the idea that JPLers living in the heart of earthquake country wouldn't anticipate liquefaction. - Steve Lee
Many of us have read the book and are excited to see the film!- Nagin
Read the book, thought it was great! Looking forward to the movie as well. Space exploration is an adventure in any medium! -Michael
Congratulations again to the team at JPL for three amazing years of operating the Curiosity Rover on Mars! Being in the control room when it touched down was unforgettable.
What can we expect as Curiosity makes its trek up Mount Sharp? Can you tell us more about the high amounts of silica found at Marias Pass and what that might tell us about Mars’ history?
We're really excited to study the variety of minerals exposed in the layers of Mount Sharp, including hematite, clay, and sulfate that may indicate environmental changes on the surface of Mars over time. Regarding the high silica in Marias pass, the team is in the process of analyzing CheMin and SAM results from the Buckskin drill hole which sampled the high silica bedrock, and we hope to know more about the origin of the silica once we have finished these experiments. -Katie S.
Also in Marias pass is our first look another major unit (the "Stimson" unit) which appears to be sandstone. We'll be taking a closer look over the next week and would like to find clues as to whether it's origin was aeolian (wind-blown) or aqueous formed in water. After that, she'll make her way towards Bagnold Dunes to understand sand dunes in Gale Crater. (BTW, Bagnold was an early desert explorer who traversed across some of the most formidable Libyan terrains in the 1930s - in a primitive Lorry!) After that, there is some wonderfully compelling terrain including a hematite ridge and phyllosilicate basing - great places for exploring the habitability history of Mars! - Steve Lee
If you could clone curiosity and have a second identical rover, like Spirit/Opportunity, where on Mars would you put it?
While not a clone per se, the Mars 2020 rover is based on my design (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mars-2020/). She will have different instrumentation. There are a series of meetings going on right now to decide where on Mars the mission should touch down. More info online here: http://marsnext.jpl.nasa.gov/workshops/wkshp_2015_08.cfm
First off, congrats on the anniversary of Curiosity being on Mars! I remember back when Spirit and Opportunity landed, but I was a lot younger then so it was really cool to know more about what was going in 2012. I have two questions though.
Do you all still think about the fact that you're part of something that's driving around on and studying another planet? Or after these three years does it feel pretty normal?
I’m sure many of you got into the field you’re in because of this, but are any of you into doing ameatuer astronomy with your own personal telescopes? Or by the time your done at work are you tired of space?
Many folks who work on missions spend their own time doing personal observing as well. There are groups on lab that take telescopes to schools and public locations to help others learn about the stars etc. Of course, from LA, we can often mainly see planets! - Nagin
Since Mars doesn't have a magnetic field, how do you protect Curiosity from space weather?
The martian atmosphere provides some protection from the most energetic particles. The rover electronics have also been designed to be shielded from as much space weather as possible, but occasionally the rover can encounter spurious interactions with stuff from space. But that's good! Curiosity has a number of instruments specifically designed to measure space weather interactions, so any interactions we get are actually good! It's important to quantify the effect of space weather on the surface for when we finally send humans to Mars, so we can ensure they are suitably protected. -Michael
Do you think we'll find life deeper on Mars?
It's a long shot, but some day we might find life deeper on Mars. The environment on the surface of Mars today is quite harsh for life as we know it, but if life exists on Mars, it would be protected from radiation at depth and liquid water could be stable there too.
How are the wheels holding up to the damage they've sustained? Has it limited how much or how far you intended on driving?
I stayed up until 2am watching the live stream from some sketchy campground wifi on a cross country trip with my family. I got goosebumps when the first image came through. Thank you for giving me that memory that I will always treasure.
The rover wheel damage is in line with what we expected, and while it hasn't limited how far we anticipate driving, it does make day-to-day traversing a bit more delicate. We purposefully try to maneuver to avoid driving over sharp rocks or more challenging terrain. In some cases, we've backtracked a bit to find smoother and safer paths for the rover to take to minimize damage, but that's the only real limitation we've encountered -Michael
Who choose/came up with the name "Curiosity" for the rover?
NASA held a naming contest, same as for the Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers! Clara Ma won it, and you can read her winning essay here: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/namerover/WinnerAnnouncedEssay/
Thank you for doing this AMA! I have a couple questions if its not too much trouble:
What was the reasoning behind using a skycrane system to land rather than the airbag landings of previous rovers?
What was one of the largest challenges you faced when designing or operating the rover?
As a college student, what can I do to get involved in NASA and engineering for space exploration in general?
Other than for navigation and creative self-promotion, what was the reasoning behind writing "JPL" with the wheels? Wouldn't it have been more accurate/easier to navigate by just using specified distances as wheel markings rather than a message?
Thank you so much for your response and I wish your team continuing luck on the mission.
1) Curiosity was too heavy for an airbag landing - the bags would "stroke out". Skycrane evolved from a series of engineering trade studies. Once we came up with skycrane, the many benefits became more apparent. 2) When I was GN&C manager, the biggest challenge was the landing radar. A new radar with better range and performance. But it turned out to be tough to design and build. But it worked amazingly well 3 years ago. 3) Study engineering or science. Internship at an aerospace company or NASA. At JPL, we had 1,200 students working this summer! 4) Curiosity uses imagery to periodically confirm she is making expected driving progress, i.e. not slipping. If we're in featureless terrain (like sand), Curiosity uses wheel marks in the sand to measure progress. The morse JPL gives a unique, easily-seen pattern to track. - Steve
What is the biggest challenge or obstacle you've overcome since the beginning of the mission? Are there any challenges you have not yet overcome?
We've had a few, actually! On sol 199, part of our flash memory failed on the A-side computer in a section of memory that prevented the rover from shutting down. When the rover is 'awake', it is actually power-negative -- it needs to 'sleep' in order to recharge the batteries. So we get the downlink from sol 199, and we see the rover is in serious trouble -- if it doesn't go to sleep soon, it is going to run out of power and we'll lose the spacecraft. So we made the decision to switch to the B-side computer on the rover -- not knowing if the same malfunction was happening on the B-side -- because it was the only thing we could do that would allow us to regain control of the spacecraft. It worked, and we were able to configure the A-side computer so that it could function as our back-up computer! We've also had a few electrical issues with our drill which we've been able to figure out work arounds for, and the terrain in Gale crater hasn't been as gentle on our wheels as we'd like. As for challenges we have not yet overcome, we always have it in the back of our heads that anything can happen on the rover at any time, and we have to be prepared for it! -Kim L.
I will be a college freshman next year, I plan to study Aerospace Engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut in the future, and I have a few questions: * How did you become first become involved in the Mars Curiosity project, and what advice can you give to prospective college students who wish to become involved in the space exploration industry? * How much long do you continue to utilize Curiosity before you retire the rover? Are there any plans of sending a new rover to the Red Planet? Or is the next step to send people? * Is there anything you would have done differently with the Mars Curiosity Project? Any regrets or mistakes?
Hi! So exciting to hear from a student. You are on the right path to accomplishing your goals. I'm in communications and never thought I would work here but after the pathfinder landing, I was hooked.
My advice to you is:
-Do an internship - apply for a NASA internship if you can. There are opportunities for students at all levels. More info on JPL internship opportunities here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/intern/
-Go to an Open House at one of the 10 NASA centers. Info on JPL open House Oct. 10 and 11: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/open-house.php
-Find a mentor in the field who you can go to for questions
-Ask questions, which you are clearly doing of teachers, friends, via Twitter or Facebook or through this AMA, so good job!
-Study hard and challenge yourself
Good luck your freshman year!
How much longer do you think Curiosity can "survive" on Mars?
Curiosity has already survived longer than its nominal mission of one Mars year. We've just surpassed 11 km on the surface, and so far, the biggest hindrance has been wear of the wheels. While they are wearing at the expected rate, they won't last forever. We expect to be able to traverse many more kilometers in the future. Rover power shouldn't be an issue, as the rover's RTG should keep us running for a long time. --Michael
Just out of curiosity (ha), I noticed during the Pluto press conferences and then again in your comment that they word 'nominal' came up. Is there any reason it seems to be so commonly used amongst you awesome science folks?
We scientists picked up this lingo from the engineers. It means "normal, as expected". It means that all is well. -Joy
Does this mean that the revised operating procedures to minimize wheel wear have not mitigated this issue, or the the damage was severe enough that operation with the existing damage and operational changes to minimize damage simply won't extend the life very far?
The martian environment is very harsh on all aspects of the rover, wheels included. Without the smoothing influence of water on the martian surface, rocks and soil tend to be very sharp and angular, which has worn the wheels over time, but still within our expected margins. The revised procedures were designed to further mitigate the wear to the wheels, but the wheels won't last forever. We hope that by finding smoother terrain to cross, we'll be operating for many years and kilometers to come. -Michael
does the curiosity rover like milk?
she likes exploring Mars! - Nagin
I prefer delicious Mars regolith. Mmm. Crunchy.
What is the long term goal for curiosity and what is its expected life time? We know that spirit and opportunity lasted a lot longer than they were designed for, will curiosity have that possibility as well?
The long-term science goal is to traverse up the side of Mt. Sharp to study the changing layers that we see in the mountain. As we ascend, it's like a time capsule, as subsequent layers reflect different time periods of Mars' history. We're at the base of the mountain right now, studying the earliest, oldest time in Mars' history. Curiosity has been designed to last much longer than its one-Mars-year nominal mission, and all signs so far point to a long life for the rover. -Michael
How much of the erosion on Mars do you think was caused by the melting cycle of dry ice deposits as opposed actual liquid water?
Dry ice, currently, sublimates in the current Martian environment, so not much. However, their is evidence and experiments that have shown dry ice may be carving gullies and sand dunes in the higher latitudes. More here. - Fred
Hi everyone! Quick question for all of you.
When eating hot dogs, do you eat them with or without ketchup?
Ketchup and mustard :)
without at home and with at the movies! -Nagin
Is it true that it sings "Happy Birthday" to itself when it celebrates "birthday"?
On its first birthday, the SAM instrument did sing a birthday song on Mars! For the second and third, the engineering and science teams have celebrated enough for us and the rover. -Kim L.
How long will funding last for Curiosity exploration?
We are in our First 2-year Extended Mission, which will last through September, 2016. We will be submitting a proposal to NASA to extend the mission for another 2-year extended mission after that. We will continue to submit extended mission proposals to NASA, as long as the rover is still healthy.
The curiosity rover is going to be used as a basis for another mars rover in 2020. I have just one question. What were the biggest challenges in the curiosity mission as a whole and how can you avoid these, if any, in the 2020 rover?
We're (again) learning that the day-to-day operations of the rover are extremely complex and require an extreme amount of coordination between the scientists and engineers. Over the past three years, we've learned numerous lessons about how to streamline the process and improve the overall efficiency of operations. Since Mars 2020 will be largely the same as Curiosity, we can transfer these "lessons learned" to the new rover and hopefully make things run smoother. -Michael
Is it possible to get an internship position at NASA without any prior work experience? Would you hire a college freshman/sophomore as an intern?
Hi! Please visit this page for more information about internships: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/intern/apply/
We are always looking for students who are excited about space exploration and interested in going into STEM fields.
We do so all the time! Check out our internship webpage for more information about the opportunities to work at JPL. No prior space-related experience is required, although enthusiasm is encouraged! -Michael
Does Curiosity ever get lonely?
Curiosity hears from her earth team every sol so we keep her company and talk to her regularly - Nagin
I'm alone, but not lonely. I talk to Nagin and the rest of the team through the Deep Space Network, and I know MRO, Odyssey, Maven, Mars Express, MOM and Opportunity are all in the neighborhood.
Thank you so much for doing this AMA.
- If you could change one thing about Curiosity's build, what would it be?
- When do you think we will put something other than a robot on Mars?
To your question #1, from the public engagement side, I would love to have a microphone on Mars To #2, NASA is working to send humans on Mars in the 2030s . . . Orion (the capsule) and SLS (the rocket) are both in development. Remember the steps of exploration are first to do flybys, orbit, land and then humans. More on that here: http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=6829
What's up with this new, very interesting looking stone? Is it limestone?
We haven't observed any limestone in Gale crater yet, although just last week we drilled into some high silica bedrock at the Buckskin drill hole. -Katie S.
I didn't look it up to be sure but the RTG on Curiosity is probably Pu-238. Given the amount of Pu-238 used in the RTG what is the expected time which the RTG would fail to provide enough watts to power all critical systems?
Also - are there any considerations going forward to switching the element used in future rovers to something like Americium-241 since it's more widely available or do we need to wait on advances in thermocouple efficiency for that to become a reality?
Hi. NASA plans to continue using plutonium dioxide (including Pu-238) as the fuel source for missions that would use radioisotope power systems for the foreseeable future, based on our long history of its safe and effective use.
In fact, NASA has been funding the DOE for the past three years to begin producing more Pu-238 for space exploration, and that work is going well. Meanwhile, JPL is studying new thermoelectric materials that could increase the efficiency of the MMRTG from 5-6% to 8-9%, and perhaps more down the road.
Wow - thank you all for spending some time here!
What's been the happiest day of the mission for you since landing?
Every day the rover is still working... :) - Fred
When do you think humans will join you there?
The hope is to send humans to mars in approximately the late 2030s - Nagin
Hi, I thought it was so cool how many steps there were to the landing process of Curiosity. It truly shows how much work is needed for space travel and science.
What do you think will be in store for the future of missions to Mars, and how likely is it that we will send a human to Mars in the near future?
Curiosity played an important role in landing a large payload. The science it is collecting on the surface will help future missions too. We already have a lot of information on radiation from the RAD instrument and that will help inform what kind of spacesuits we'll need. The Mars 2020 mission will cache samples from Mars, that could potentially be returned to Earth in the future. More on Mars 2020 here: http://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
Is there a live stream i can just watch on the side every evening?
We post our raw images from Mars here very quickly: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/ -Nagin
Hi! Cheers from Argentina!
Is there gonna be some sort of book or e-book with some information about Curiosity?
The website is a great location for information and brand new images: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ - Nagin
For now, we have an online source for the latest information about Curiosity. You can find it here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ -Sasha
Whose idea was it to create a Twitter account from the rover's point of view and how did you come up with it?
It was my idea actually and it started in 2008 with the @MarsPhoenix account. @MarsPhoenix was a lander sent to the polar region of Mars. It had a robotic arm with a scoop on the end of it and the natural bio line that came to my mind was "I dig Mars!" Prior to opening the account I also looked at other accounts on Twitter and noticed the tweets posted in third person weren't engaging-- they didn't invite conversation. I experimented with a first person tweet and voila! The twitterverse responded in a huge way with questions (and awe at this new way to communicate directly with NASA). @MarsPhoenix became the fifth most followed Twitter account that summer. Added bonus: Using "I" instead of "the lander" meant gaining a lot of needed character space. A couple of months later I started the @MarsCuriosity account (the rover was just a box and some wires being put together at that point). It was a no-brainer to continue the first person tweets. Plus, it makes it a whole lot more fun for us! -- Veronica McG
Could the human race migrate to mars in the next 200-300 years?
Wouldn't that be something! Currently, there are plans for human missions to Mars in the 2030s but this would be a small crew 3-4 perhaps.
Hi! Congratulations on the success your mission has had thus far.
Curiosity was built in the JPL cleanroom, correct? What was that like? What lessons have you taken from this experience to improve aerospace cleanrooms in the future?
Yes, Curiosity was built in the JPL cleanroom. This is necessary to ensure the vehicle stays as clean as possible - even small amount of dust and dirt can interfere with the systems. You have to wear a special white gown, booties, and cap to contain all of your human filthiness. Then you pass through an air shower and airlock when entering the room. Everything worked as expected and the cleanroom worked great. One of the biggest challenges was accommodating the size of MSL with all of its stages. The assembly team had to choreograph the motion of the individual stages very carefully.
How we - the lovers of this mission - can help to the Curiocity project? and to future missions ?
By participating just as you are and sharing your enthusiasm on Mars news with friends and family. Thanks for all the support! Carolina
Hello! It's a privilege to get the chance to ask you guys a question. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard from a forgotten source that the Curiosity has actually implanted living microbes onto the surface of Mars that remained on the rover since its launch from Earth. Can you bring some insight to the subject or clarify my stupidity?
We have gone to great lengths to sterilize, as best we can, the entire rover to avoid cross-contamination with the martian environment. After all, if/when we discover life on Mars, we'd like to be absolutely certain it's native to Mars and not something we brought ourselves. Inevitably, though, there are probably some extremely robust microbes that have survived the sterilization process and trip to Mars--same as with every robotic explorer. But we've not 'implanted' microbes (intentionally or unintentionally) onto the surface. -Michael
Many thanks to all your team for doing this AMA - space exploration is the best!
How would you react if/when we find life in space ? Would it feel more special to you if life was found by a program like Curiosity, or would it feel the same even if it was found by say, a privatized mission ?
I would be stunned. It would be more special if it was found by Curiosity, but I would still be stunned if it was found by another mission or investigator. It would be amazing to find life on Mars and it would trigger a lot of other interesting questions about how life begins and evolves.
Are you flabbergasted when you meet people who do not know or believe that there is a rover on Mars? If they do not believe, what do you tell them?
No, actually I'm not offended. I see it as an opportunity to inform and connect with people. I haven't yet met one person who does not believe we have a rover or two on Mars but I have met people who have not heard we have one there. So big difference. It just motivates me to do more and keep working to get the word out!
What was the hardest obstacle to overcome for the curiosity mission? This can mean before, during, or after the launch/landing
One of the most difficult times for Curiosity and her team was when the mission launched was delayed from 2008 to 2011. -Katie S.
What was the original expected lifespan of Curiosity and how has that little wheeled dirt devil and the human crew been able to extend that lifespan?
The prime mission was 1 Mars year, which is just about 2 Earth years. We are currently in our first extended mission. The team is always keeping track of what we call 'consumables' -- resources on the rover that once they're gone, they're gone! We use those sparingly so we can keep the rover going as long as possible and get the most science out of the mission! We also have to be aware of how our human crew is doing -- at this point it's kind of a like a marathon instead of a sprint, so we're continuously making small tweaks to how we operate the rover so that it's less taxing on the operations team. -Kim L.
First off, thanks for doing everything you did to get to where you are today. I'm sure it wasn't always easy to stay the course. Secondly, what top three things have we learned from uour mission that lead us closer to establishing a permanent presence on Mars?
I can think of one very important contribution . . . .learning about the radiation at Mars and how it'll affect humans. Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is the 1st instrument to measure the radiation during our trip to Mars from inside the spacecraft. This will help us figure out the type of shielding future missions will need.
What is the top speed of the rover, Also will the rover get a cameo in the Matt Damon movie "The Martian"?
I can hit a top speed of 4 cm/sec on flat, hard ground. I won't be making a cameo, but you might see some of my friends.
What are you looking forward to finding out about Mars the most as of now?
Curiosity and her team are really looking forward to continuing the search for ancient habitable environments and evidence of organic matter in the rocks of Gale crater. -Katie S.
Will you exit the Gale crater ? Where are you headed to in any case ?
There are no plans to exit Gale Crater with Curiosity. The long-term plan is to drive up the side of the central peak of the crater, which we informally call Mt. Sharp. There's plenty to see an do just inside the crater itself. -Michael
Is it difficult controlling something that's on a time delay of about 12 minutes (thereabouts based on the position of Mars relative to Earth) from your location here on Earth?
Also, do you believe there is methane on Mars?
Indeed, it would be impossible to control Curiosity in real-time with the light-time delay you've pointed out. So we actually plan a whole Sol's (martian day) worth of activities and send the "to-do" list to her every martian morning. When the MRO and Odyssey orbiter fly over in the afternoon, Curiosity transmits the results of the day to be relayed back to us on Earth. - Steve Lee
Curiosity measured a strong methane signal in late 2013/early 2014. http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/16dec_methanespike/ We're continuing to monitor to see if more spikes occur and, if so, if there's a regular pattern. - Steve Lee
For the next mission, would you rather send 1
horse bus-sized rover or 100 duck-sized rovers?
100 duck-sized rovers. We can cover more of the Mars surface that way. -Kim L.
The current plan is to build a new rover based on Curiosity for launch in 2020, but a bus-sized duck-shaped rover is a good idea for the future.
How many miles has the Curiosity Rover covered so far?
We've covered ~11 km, which is just about 7 miles. -Michael
6.8 miles (10.9 km).
We've driven ~10.7 km. - Fred
What are some unforeseen challenges the terrain provided you guys with that you had to adapt to? How many total kilometers do you think (and hope) Curiousity is capable of logging when it's all said and done?
The rocks were more 'sharp' than expected (some ventifacted or sharpened by the wind because they're so hard in some places), which lead to our wheels getting holes faster than expected. We changed driving strategy to avoid these areas as much as possible.
As for total distance, it really depends on the science team. In some cases, we could drive very little (ten meters) and accomplish a lot of science! However, everyone likes to change the scenery, visually and geologically. We've gone ~11 km, the rover's in good health, and we expect many more. - Fred
Could you rate my Curiosity model? http://i.imgur.com/1wCD7IA.png
Thumbs up!! -Joy
Is there any kind of resource or some other kind of valuable object that could be obtained on Mars that might interest private organizations to invest on more trips to Mars?
Nothing that we know of yet based on the present findings of our Mars rovers, landers, and orbiters. -Katie S.
so Curiosity has found some trace evidence of water and has analyzed dozens of dirt samples. What are you guys hoping to find next? Do you have a goal in mind or is it simply exploration at this point?
One of MSL's main mission objectives is to understand whether Mars was once habitable. We found a habitable environment back at Yellowknife Bay near where Curiosity first landed, and we'll be continuing our search for habitable environments as Curiosity ascends Mount Sharp. We think of this as goal-oriented exploration! -Katie S.
Is the new Mars Rover iteration vastly different than the previous one (for 2020)?
It's mostly build-to-print, meaning it will be largely similar to MSL. The only differences to Mars 2020 will be in the way the instruments are accommodated on the new rover, and improvements to various subsystems based on lessons-learned from Curiosity.
You can explore more about the rover here: http://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/rover/ -Sasha
Congratulations on the third landiversary! Here's my question:
How have the team's intentions for the mission changed over the three year journey of the curiosity rover?
One of Curiosity's original scientific goals before landing in Gale crater was to study the clay-sulfate transition in the strata of Mount Sharp. Once we realized how exciting and diverse the terrain was around the rover landing site (including the habitable environment we discovered at Yellowknife Bay!), we decided to postpone our trek to the clay-sulfate boundary. But we've now reached the base of Mount Sharp and we're headed on our way to the clay-sulfate strata. -Katie S.
Will you write my name in the sand with tread marks or on a rock with the laser? It would make my month, no, lifetime. - Dylan
If you change your initials to "JPL," I'm on it. http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16111
Did the level of wear and tear surprise everyone on the team, or did some people know the wheels would take a beating?
Is there a rover on Earth that is driving just as much as the rover on Mars so that y'all can see wear and tear a bit better?
We tested the wheel extensively on Earth driving over terrain similar to that experienced by previous rovers. But Gale Crater threw us a little surprise when we encountered very sharp rocks which were much tougher on Curiosity's wheels than expected from previous terrains. So, yes, we have been conducting life tests in the JPL Mars Yard to improve our driving techniques and understand what kind of terrain to avoid. - Steve Lee
Do you believe that somewhen in future we will be able to get rover back home ?
Perhaps one day when a human astronaut gets to Mars, she might be able to bring Sojourner back to an Earth museum!
What is the most fulfilling aspect of being part of the team exploring Mars?
It is truly remarkable to come in every earth morning and see images from Mars taken by a robot that humans built. Exploration never gets old- Nagin
Silly question, but hey I can ask anything. :D
Have you ever thought about giving defense measures to the rover in case any kind of hostile life form appeared?
Since Curiosity's main objective is science exploration (and not interplanetary conflict!), we design our rovers, landers, and orbiters to carry science instruments. That being said, Curiosity could take evasive action at a blazing 0.09 mph. -Katie S.
Is there anything you expected to find, but didn't? Also, do you find it possible that a breakthrough (concerning Curiosity's findings) could happen in the foreseeable future? If so, what would you like to see the most?
Based on images of the martian surface obtained from orbital spacecraft, we know that volcanic, wind, and impact processes have been very important in shaping Mars' surface. I've been a bit surprised that we haven't seen more evidence for these processes in the rocks at Gale crater. Instead, we've found abundant evidence that rivers and lakes existed in Gale crater. It's hard to know what we'll find as we ascend Mount Sharp, but we're always on the look-out for habitable environments and evidence for organic matter. -Katie S.
Congrats on the anniversary! In addition to what has already been discovered by using Curiosity (or the Curiosity by itself should I say), what are your thoughts on what there is still to be discovered? What are you hoping to find out? What is the estimated lifespan of the Curiosity rover in Mars? Do you ever feel that the Curiosity might be lonely up there?
Thank you for doing this!
Edit: Also, will the rover ever return back to earth? I'm guessing that it stays there after it has done its duty since its too expensive to bring it back to earth, but I'm hoping that I'm wrong.
Thanks! The sols just fly when you're doing science. I'm so happy to be exploring the foothills of Mount Sharp. Everywhere I look there is evidence of water in Mars' ancient past. All of me was guaranteed for my prime mission (one Mars year; about two Earth years). I'm still in good health and continuing operations. Mars is my forever home. Come visit!
Congratulations on everything in the mission!
Now that Curiosity is near Mt. Sharp, where will it be heading now? I assume it cannot climb the mountain?
Curiosity will be spending a bit more time driving through the foothills of Mt. Sharp where we will next examine a dune in the Bagnold dune field. Then we'll be heading up the mountain! The slope of lower Mount Sharp is gentle enough that the rover can drive up the hill. -Katie S.
Is it feasible for Curiosity to actually reach the top of Mount Sharp? I understand the primary mission is to look at the mountain's ancient billions of years old rock slopes to understand the planet's geological history but is it possible Curiosity will ever make it to the top?
We're more interested in where lower Mt. Sharp, which we think is when Mars had more water, meets upper Mt. Sharp, which appears to represent 'dry' Mars. Reaching the boundary between the 'wet' period on Mars and the 'dry' period will tell us about how Mars changed it's climate. This boundary is only a couple hundred meters above us; a small fraction of the ~5k height. - Fred
Have you considered having small insect size drones that report back onto the next rover? And thank you for doing work that humans are truly should be doing. Exploring.
There are a number of different projects and concepts in development at JPL that look at the different ways we can use technology to explore the surface of other planets. -Katie S.
Why was Mars chosen for the expedition instead of another close-ish planet, like Venus?
Mars has signs of past liquid water on the surface and may have had environments suitable for life, if life ever got started elsewhere. - Joy
The venusian environment is extremely harsh--almost 450 C--and incredibly challenging to explore. Past landed missions to Venus have lasted only a few hours at most (and that was their expected lifetime!), and the environment is not terribly conducive to life. Mars is much more Earth-like in that regard, and much more likely to have had a habitable environment. For those reasons, Mars was the clear choice of target. But don't fret! Missions to Venus may be coming soon! -Michael
What discovery surprised you the most?
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