In 126 million kilometers of Earth, it is only in red and cold pressure Mars, a A small size 4×4 size robot starts soon after the sun. As everyday for six years, wait for your instructions.
About 9:30, Mars time, the message that left California came for a quarter of an hour before: "Go ahead with 10 meters, it's rotated at 45 degrees and continue to join that point independently".
"Ashamed", as it is called, moves slowly, between 35 and 110 meters per hour, no more. The batteries and other restrictions explain their daily journey from around a canal, reaching a record of 220 meters.
Once there, the There are 17 robot cameras photocopying and the environment. Her laser makes fun of the rocks. In the face of a particularly attractive stone, it does not take a sample of a few grams.
Around 17:00 local time, the robot will wait to go to one of three NASA satellite orbit around Mars to present his report: several megabits cants, then transferred to the main terrestrial antennas of their human heads.
On the bottom floor of a 34-storey building NASA Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, one hour from Washington, the scientists analyze this data every day. In that great room without windows full of instruments and computers, look for signs of life on the Mars.
Inside "Ashamed" is "a strange vision": microbial oven size chemical laboratory, of the SAM name.
Charles Malespin, deputy head of the scientific team of "Curiosity", sets out the instruments in the schemes of work: they were reduced and summarized in the robot.
"This is the most complex tool that was ever sent by NASA to another planet", says Malespin, who is dedicated to his / her professional life since 2006.
The SAM analyzes samples by heating them in an oven up to 1,000 ° C Although cooking, rocks and legs release gases. Then, these gases are separated and sent to instruments that are analyzed and subtracted "fingerprints" of the sample.
In Goddard, the French researcher Maeva Millan compare this chemistry footprint with the experiments performed on the known molecules. When the curves are boosted, he says: "That's my good molecule."
Thanks to the US it's known that complex organic molecules are on Mars, and that the planet's antiquity of the planet had been established, geological was much younger than scientists believed.
"If we're going to Mars, it's worthless to import existing resources"adds Malespin, referring, for example, to water. "We could dig the soil, heat it and release it, just carry an oven, we will have as much water as we want"he says. The same thing happens for different materials that could become a fuel for a "rocket service station" in the future.
On the other side of the United States, in Jet Propulsion Laboratory is Pasadena, near Los Angeles, There are about 15 men and women who order "Ashamed".
"My favorite moment of the day is when I sit down to see the images sent from Mars", said on the other side of the phone Frank Hartman, who ordered "Ashamed" and another robot, "Opportunity", which broke down in June.
The work of the drivers is to plan a Martian day – which is for 24 hours and 40 minutes – from the robot and to program the commands to comply with.
By not having real-time contact or communication, they are unlikely to find problems in advance, such as saturation "Opportunity" or the holes caused by the rocky land in wheels "Curiosity".
"We must keep in mind that we do not know almost about this place", says Hartman.
Over the years scientists and drivers are involved with their robots. When "Cyfle" broke down, after 14 years, Hartman and his colleagues felt like crying. "He retired with honor," he said.
"Curiosity" has made 19.75 km since 2012. In one year, it should achieve its goal: Mount Sharp. A few months later, he will lose his Martian monopoly. Two American and European robots are expected to go on the planet in 2020.