The real Mars rover Curiosity mission begins [Google+ Hangout]
[Update: Please note that the Google+ Hangout has been rescheduled from noon, as previously stated, to 11 a.m. Wednesday.]
How is the Mars rover Curiosity mission going to change when the craft begins traveling on the Mars surface?
What do the new images from the Red Plant tell us?
Times science writer Amina Khan will discuss the latest movements of Curiosity during a Google+ Hangout on Wednesday at 11 a.m. PDT. You can ask her questions or make comment in the comments section below or on Twitter using the hashtag #asklatimes.
Khan reported Monday that researchers released fresh photos, including a sharper image of the rover's landing site from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera. The images, with many different shades and textures of terrain around the rover, piqued the scientists' interest.
This weekend, engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge installed fresh software that will arm the rover with the know-how to do its job on Mars.
Next week, said deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, engineers will take Curiosity for a spin, directing it to roll a few meters before wheeling around to check out its landing spot.
The coming days should also yield even better panoramas of the rover's surroundings, said mission manager Michael Watkins. An earlier image showing off Curiosity’s ultimate target, Mt. Sharp, in the distance had cut off the top of the mountain.
The engineers hadn’t meant to get a partial picture of the 3-mile-high peak, which is thought to bear a valuable rock record of Mars’ early history and is where scientists will search for the ingredients for life. The first few images had been pre-programmed into the rover’s instructions, with no room to adjust the camera frame.
The viewing public wasn’t the only group impatient to see a full shot of Curiosity’s goal, lying about five miles away, the scientists said.
“We are dying to see that image also! We talk about it all the time around the control room,” Watkins said. “We want to see that image as much as anybody.”