NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrates one year on the Red Planet. Launched in November 2011, Curiosity successfully landed on the surface of Mars on August 6 for its two-year mission. A year later, Curiosity is still safe on Mars, with scoopfuls of discoveries to its credit.
The biggest find was geological evidence that Mars once had an environment that would have been hospitable to life as we know it — not just extremophiles, but the kind of garden-variety bacteria you’d find in a typical earthly stream.
Space agency officials and crew members on the International Space Station reflected on the anniversary — and traced the time line for future missions to Mars and an asteroid.
Those missions include this autumn’s launch of the Maven orbiter to Mars, the 2016 launch of NASA’s InSight Mars lander, a 2020 Mars rover follow-up, a mission in the 2020s to get up close and personal with a near-Earth asteroid (or at least a piece of the rock), and journeys to Mars and its moons in the 2030s.
Curiosity is supported by the processing capability of the BAE Systems RAD750(TM) radiation-hardened computers. The RAD750 is a radiation hardened version of the IBM PowerPC 750 chip designed to withstand the rigors of space. The third generation processor is capable of surviving in space for 15 years with only one ground intervention, which far exceeds the standards for commercial-based PCs. The processor also powers the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a key communications link during the landing of Curiosity.
The BAE Systems radiation hardened processors (based on PowerPC) have been powering NASA rovers since 1997 and have advanced significantly since the RAD6000s used on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 4.31.22 PMThe single-board computer aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover is built around a PowerPC RAD750 microprocessor provided by BAE Systems. While slower than the latest generation of chips in readily available consumer electronics, the computer is virtually impervious to massive amounts of radiation and other environmental extremes.
(Credit: BAE Systems)