AFP / Greenbelt, USA
126 million kilometers away from the Earth, only a robot with a small 4×4 & # 39; size of red and cold density of Mars begins shortly after dawn.
As with every day for six years, wait for your instructions. At around 9:30 am Mars time, an hour before the quarter comes a message from California: a 10-meter progress, 45 degrees turns and continues to this point automatically.
As you wonder, curiosity moves slowly, between 35 and 110 meters per hour, not more. Batteries and other restrictions explain the daily 100-meter journey and reach a record level of 220 meters.
Once there, the 17 cameras of the robot are photographing the environment. He throws the laser on the rocks. Especially attractive with an attractive stone, it stops to take a sample of several grams.
At around 5:00 am local time, the robot expects one of NASA's three satellites to deliver a report of its orbit around Mars: several hundred megabits, then transmitted to the main terrestrial antennae of human patrons.
Laboratory in miniature
On the ground floor of building 34 of NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, scientists analyze this data every day, one hour after Washington. See the signs of life in Mars in this wonderful room without windows full of instruments and computers.
The interior of the curiosity is a wonder of miniaturization: a chemical laboratory is the size of a microwave oven called SAM.
Charles Malespin, the vice president of the scientific team of curiosity, draws attention to the instruments in the study plans: the robot has been reduced and compacted.
This is the most complex instrument NASA has sent to another planet, says Malespin, who has dedicated his professional life to him since 2006. SAM analyzes samples by heating them in an oven up to 1000 ° C.
When cooking, rocks and soils release gases. These gases are then separated and sent to the instruments which analyze them and draw the fingerprint of the sample.
In Goddard, the French researcher Maeva Millan compares this chemical repression with experiments on known molecules. When the curves are imitated, he says: This is my good molecule.
Thanks to SAM, Mars is known to be complex organic molecules and the surface of the planet is known to be ancient, scientists are believed to be geologically younger.
If we want to go to Mars, if it doesn't work to import the already existing resources, Malespin adds, for example, to water. We can dig, heat and release water; Diy We'll have just as much water as we want, carrying a single oven. Sadece
The same applies to various materials that may become fuel for a future rocket service station.
On the other side of the United States, there is a Chorro in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, in the Propulsin laboratory, about 15 men and women ruling curiosity.
My favorite moment of the day is when I sit down to see the images sent from Mars, on the other side of Frank Hartman, who set up Curiosity and another robot Opportunity, set in June.
The work of the drivers is to schedule the robot's 24-hour and 40-minute Mars day and schedule commands to comply with it. Due to the lack of joysticks or real-time communication, it is unlikely that they will discover problems beforehand, such as the saturation of Opportunity or the holes caused by rocky soil on the wheels of Curiosity.
Hartman, we have to keep in mind that we know almost nothing about this place. Over the years, scientists and drivers have been connected to their robots. When the opportunity was over, Hartman and his teammates 14 years later liked to cry. He says he's retired, honored.
Curiosity has reached 19.75 kilometers since 2012. Within a year, you need to reach your goal: Mount Sharp. A few months later, you lose your Martian monopoly. In 2020, two American and European robots are expected to land on the planet.