In 126 million kilometers of Earth, only a little too cold, red Mars, a small size 4×4 size robot starts shortly after the morning. As everyday for six years, wait for your instructions.
About 9:30, Mars time, the California message came for a quarter of an hour: "Go ahead 10 meters, turn to 45 degrees and continue independent to that point" .
Curiosity, as it is called, moves slowly, between 35 and 110 meters per hour, no more. The batteries and other constraints explain their daily journey from around a canal, reaching a record of 220 meters.
Once there, there are 17 cameras of the environment's robot photo. 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.
About 17:00 local time, the robot will wait to go to one of three NASA satellite satellites around Mars to present its report: a number of megabits chants, and transfer to main terrestrial antennae their heads of humanity.
Laboratory is small
On the bottom floor of the 34th Goddard NASA space center at Greenbelt, one hour from Washington, 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.
The interior of Violence is "a bit of minor": a microwave oven chemical laboratory, of the SAM name.
Charles Malespin, deputy head of the scientific team of Curiosity, identifies the instruments in the schemes of work: they have been reduced and summarized in the robot.
"This is the most complex tool that NASA sent to another planet ever," said Malespin, who is dedicated to his / her professional life since 2006.
The SAM analyzes samples by heating them in an oven of up to 1000 ° 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, French researcher Maeva Millan compares this chemistry footprint with 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 Marsh molecules are complex, and that the planet's surface antiquity has been established, geologically 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 take a oven, we will have as much water as we want," he said. The same thing happens for different materials that could become a fuel for a "rocket service station" in the future.
Without a gentleman
On the other side of the United States, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, there are around 15 men and women who oversee Curiosity.
"My favorite time on the day is when I sit down to see the images that were sent from Mars," said Frank Hartman, who's a disgusting command and another robot, Opportunity, who 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 the saturation of Opportunity or holes caused by the rocky soil in Wheel wheels.
"We must keep in mind that we do not know almost about this place," said Hartman.
Over the years scientists and drivers are involved with their robots. Opportunity broke up, after 14 years, Hartman and his colleagues wanted to cry. "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.