NASA's Curiosity rover will try risky landing near Mount Sharp

Space agency confident it can dodge mountainous Mars obstacle


NASA has decided to up the ante for the Mars rover Curiosity's arrival next month by pushing the landing site nearer to the foot of an inconvenient mountain.

The old and new landing targets for Curiosity

The old and new landing targets for Curiosity. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

Obviously an obstacle like a mountain makes setting down a bit dicier, but the space agency is going to risk it so that the rover will be able to get to where it wants to be months earlier.

"We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half," Peter Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) project manager, said in a canned statement.

NASA is more confident that the precision landing tech on the MSL, which is carrying Curiosity, can aim closer without hitting the forebodingly named Mount Sharp at the centre of the Gale crater because it will be using a new version of flight software uploaded to the travelling craft in the last two weeks.

The previous landing target zone for the MSL was around 12 miles (19km) wide and 16 miles (26km) long. The new narrower zone is just four miles wide (6.4km) and 12 miles (19km) long.

"We have been preparing for years for a successful landing by Curiosity, and all signs are good," Dave Lavery, MSL programme executive, said.

"However, landing on Mars always carries risks, so success is not guaranteed. Once on the ground we'll proceed carefully. We have plenty of time since Curiosity is not as life-limited as the approximate 90-day missions like NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers and the Phoenix lander.”

Curiosity is due to touch down on the Red Planet at 15.31 GMT on 5 August (08.31 PST) to start its two-year mission to find out if Mars has ever or could ever support life. More upgrades for its surface ops are due to be beamed to the rover a week after landing. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021