Curious About Curiosity: The Next Mars Rover

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Earlier this month, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California had its annual two-day open house. For a laboratory complex that has the same acreage as Disneyland, it was just as crowded as the House of Mouse on a busy summer day. What a refreshing sight it was to see so many people - couples, families, grandparents and grandchildren, groups of teenagers - coming to a scientific laboratory to learn about space and science!

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And how awesome to see hundreds of people in line for... not a roller coaster and not a parade, but a chance to see the next Mars Rover, Curiosity!

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And Curiosity was a curious sight indeed. Visitors could only see it from a closed viewing area high above the clean room where the rover, about the size of an SUV, is being built.

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Of course, no trip to JPL would be complete without a glimpse of the magnetic tape recorder responsible for storing all the data recorded by Galileo, on its journey to Jupiter in 1989. Would you believe the entire storage capacity of the drive is only 114 MB?!!

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Why, yes, I do carry 36 times that amount of data in my pocket every day.

All photos are by the author. Click on each one to enlarge. See more, higher-quality photos at Flickr.

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Cuttlefish - Spirit was a great piece of equipment that eventually had to fail - but she worked for much, much longer than we had any right to expect.

Daniel - Curiosity is to the left of the skycrane in the first clean-room picture (and you can see one of her wheels in the second).

Why, yes, I do carry 36 times that amount of data in my pocket every day.

I wonder how long that 4GB would last in the magnetic and radiation environment of Jupiter though...