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Mars: The Secret Science looks at the amazing Curiosity Rover

Curiosity hasn't killed this particular cat just yet
Curiosity hasn’t killed this particular cat just yet

This week Mars: The Secret Science takes a look at the remarkable success that is the Curiosity Rover on Mars.

The car-sized rover has been on the Red Planet since  August 6, 2012 and travels around 20 miles every day.

A course is mapped for the rover
A course is mapped for the rover

Mile by mile, rock by rock guiding this robot around another planet is no easy task.

The distance means that messages are delayed by between 4 and 24 minutes, depending on where the Earth and Mars are on their orbit around the Sun.

Real life testing with a replica is used
Real life testing with a replica is used

The first task each day is to look at the current images from the rover. Then a controller works out a possible route and the data they have already gathered allows them to model how Curiosity will move across the ground.

This means they can sort of simulate any movements before they order the rover to carry them out. 3d glasses are used so that obstacles like rocks and ridges can be seen clearly and avoided if necessary.

Wind and sand sharpened rocks have a proved very damaging to Curiosity's wheels
Wind and sand sharpened rocks have a proved very damaging to Curiosity’s wheels

It’s not all computer simulations though, nothing beats seeing how things really work in real life. So literally out the back they have a copy of the rover and mimic the terrain on Mars so they can see how the rover copes.

Mars: The Secret Science – Secret History of a Rover at 9 PM on Science Channel. 

James has worked for Monsters and Critics since it started back in 2003. He oversees the business and technical side of things. You can contact... read more
James Wray

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