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High Performance Computer Questions about the Curiosity Rover on Mars

Aug. 10, 2012 ⋅ Categories: Physical Sciences

With the news of Curiosity landing on Mars, the high performance server community is just giddy and those utilizing supercharged workstations are “curious” about what is aboard the Curiosity. The Mars Science Laboratory rover is assessing the planet’s environment and if the planet has ever been a habitat for life. Its mission is separated into four parts:

A.    Access the biological potential of at least one target area of the planet.
B.    Characterize the geology of the landing site.
C.    Investigate past planetary processes relevant to being a habitat.
D.    Characterize the surface radiation in the Mars environment.

Curiosity‘s Earth weight is 165 lbs and its tools are capable of verifying conditions that would be needed for Mars life: liquid water, necessary chemicals, and an energy source. Listed below are eight science instruments aboard Curiosity.

1.    Antennas: There are three Antennas aboard the craft that transmit data to orbiting Mars Satellites that relay information directly to Earth.
2.    Nuclear Battery: The battery on the rear of the craft is quite powerful, providing up to 14 years of electric power.
3.    Mobility System: Curiosity is about the size of a Mini Cooper, but the mobility system is quite different to cater to the distant terrain. There are six wheels that drive the rover at a top speed of 1.5 inches per second, and can cover at least 12 miles of Martian terrain.
4.    Jointed Robotic Arm with Instrument Turret: This arm spans to seven feet and carries a rock drill, soil sampling scoop, radiation-emitting experiment and a camera equipped with a magnifying lens.
5.    Mast: This tool carries wide-angle and telephoto digital cameras as well as a powerful infared laser for analyzing rock compositions.
6-7.    2-Megapixel Mastcams: These cameras tower 6.5 feet above the Martian surface, capturing 360-degree panorama, stills, and HD video.
8.    Hardware: Curiosity is powered by a RAD750, a single-board computer. It is currently one of the most popular computers for space crafts, being hundreds of times faster than the Apollo Guidance Computer in the Moon landings. It can withstand high levels of radiation and temperatures between 55 degrees below and 70 degrees above freezing. In case something happens to this computer despite preparations, there is a second RAD750 that will take over if anything happens to the first computer.

So are they going to find life on Mars? Not on this trip. The rover does not have the ability to detect present-day life or fossilized microorganisms. Only time and experience can answer those questions bordering imagination. Like PSSC’s Computational Chemistry workstation, Earthlings can gain superior knowledge through greater experiences spurred by curiosity.

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For more details about PSSC Labs’ high performance servers, supercharged workstations and industry leading clusters and clouds, visit us online at http://pssclabs.com.

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