How do you control the movement of the Curiosity from Earth?
One of the highlights of this year 2012 we are about to end is, without doubt, the arrival of the probe Curiosity to the surface of Mars. The arrival of the probe to the Martian surface and exploration rover deployment were followed by millions of people around the world and have been a real boost for NASA even planning new missions to the Red Planet. Little by little we are seeing images and data collected by the Curiosity but, taking into account the distance at which the ship is and, therefore, the existing delay signals how the Earth is controlled by the movement of the Curiosity ?
The answer is in the hands of something already said Eduardo when the probe arrived at Mars, since the orders that control movement of Curiosity are transmitted through the Deep Space Network for NASA. Since signals take about 13 minutes to get from Earth to Mars, the rover’s movement is not as simple as driving a joystick and expect to see a representation or a real-time image of the vehicle but moves in Based on pre-defined commands.
Before any type of movement, the mission control uses the Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program (RSVP), a simulation software that was developed in 1997 for the mission Pathfinder and offers the team a graphical Earth which display the position of the Curiosity and the environment that is around it. The RSVP represents the terrain and rocks that may pose obstacles, information that is used by the NASA team to compose the route followed by the vehicle.
The Curiosity can follow orders movements predetermined (forward 2 meters, rotated 90 Â°, etc.) or directly score a point as a destination and let mode autonomous navigation becomes operational and analyze in environment (locating obstacles using cameras Hazcam ) to plot an optimal route and, above all, safe. With every move the ship, the RSVP increases its database since the Curiosity Mars takes pictures while moving that can be used to make the next move.
Obviously, all these movements are programmed in advance so that, once configured the script, it is transmitted through the Deep Space Network for NASA (which has 3 bases arranged in Madrid, California and Canberra in order to achieve transmission availability at all times).