Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mars and Spain

      Undoubtedly, this is of significance. Spain is getting ready to make its presence felt on Mars in a big way.

      When Nasa's next 2000-pound car-sized Martian rover, ``Curiosity,'' is launched between November 25 and December 18, 2011, and touches down on the surface of Mars in August 2012, Spain too would landed on the Red Planet.

      Not that Spain is sending a spacecraft on its own to Mars. Spain, which all these years has helping Nasa in its interplanetary missions through its deep space network has a significant share in the Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) flight. The MSL was christened ``Curiosity,'' by a school girl following a competition.

       ``Curiosity's'' mission objectives include assessing the modern environment in the landing zone as well as providing clues to the environment billions of years ago. The Spain-made instrument on board ``Curiosity,'' will provide information about whether local conditions are favourable for habitability. according to ``Mars Daily,''.a web-based space journal.

         The daily says the instrument will fill a central role in studying modern conditions by measuring daily and seasonal changes. Called Rover Environment Monitoring Station (REMS), it is one of the 10 instruments in Curiosity's science payload. It uses sensors on the mast, on the deck,and inside the body of the rover, The instrument has been supplied by Spain's ministry of Science and Innovation and Spain's Centre For Industrial Technology Development. Currently it is being tested at the JPL.

          According to Mars Daily, while most of ``Curiosity's'' electronics will be protected from the Martian environment, the Spanish team has built their instrument in such a way which will allow it to withstand extreme temperature conditions on Mars.

         The main role of the instrument would be to record wind speed, wind direction, air pressure, relative humidity, temperature and ultra violet radiation---this has not been done by any of the earlier weather stations on Mars. Measurements will be taken for five minutes every hour during the 23-month long mission.

          REMS principal investigator, Javier Gomez-Elvira, an aeronautical engineer,.has been quoted as saying" ``We will gain information about whether local conditions are favourable for habitability.'' About 40 researchers and scientists will analyse data from REMS and post daily Mars weather reports.

          Regarding the public outreach of the Curiosity programme, it has really made the world increasingly curious about it. How else does one explain that more than one million people watched the assembly and testing of Curiosity via a live webcam since it on line in October 23, 2010. It totalled to 400,000 hours between October 21,2010 and November 23,2010.

          Yes sounds impressive. Let us hope the mission is flawless too.


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