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Mars rover Curiosity getting 4-day 'brain transplant'

August 11, 2012 |  9:53 am

After a week of transmitted dramatic photos of Mars, rover Curiosity is going to have a  a four-day "brain transplant."

Engineers will be updating Curiosity's software, currently primed for its flight stage, to prepare it for its Martian surface operations. The update will add two crucial functions — the ability to use the geochemistry lab's sampling system, and to drive.

The update had to wait until the rover landed because its processor, built years ago to withstand the harsh environment of interplanetary space, is limited compared with today's consumer technology, said senior software engineer Ben Cichy.

"My phone has a processor that is 10 times as fast as the processor that's on Curiosity and has 16 times as much storage as Curiosity has," Cichy said. "And my phone doesn't have to land anything on Mars."

 

In the meantime, as the rover goes under the digital knife, many scientists will be taking a break and getting used to their newfound fame.

"I got recognized in a pizza parlor on Wednesday," said systems engineer Allen Chen, who emceed Sunday's Mars landing. "That was a little weird for me."

Also Friday, engineers offered their most detailed assessment of Curiosity's landing. The craft, they said, landed roughly 1.5 miles away from its predicted touchdown zone — not bad, given that the site was more than 150 million miles away, and the projected landing zone was an ellipse 12 miles wide.

ALSO:

Curiosity's mysterious Mars photo stirs speculation

NASA's 'Mohawk guy' becomes face of Mars mission

NASA drivers await chance to operate biggest, baddest Mars rover

--Amina Khan

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