A small 4×4 robot alone wakes up right after the sunrise on a huge, cold red planet, about 126 million kilometers from Earth. Just like every day for the last 6 years, it is waiting for instructions.
Around 9:30 am, a message arrives in California at Mars time. This message was sent 15 minutes ago.
"Drive for 10m and turn to the 45 degree azimuth and turn on the autonomous function."
The curiosity probe runs commands and moves slowly to the specified position, with a maximum speed of 35 to 110 m / h.
Its battery and other configuration limit its daily drive range to about 100m. The most curious day on Mars is 220m.
Once arrived, 17 cameras shoot the environment.
Its laser compresses rocks. Other tools on the board drill particularly interesting rocks to study small samples.
At about 17:00 Martian time, one of the three NASA satellites is waiting to devour the planet.
Curiosity sends hundreds of megabytes of scientific data to a human host on earth through a giant terrestrial antenna.
Scientists on the ground floor of the NASA 's Goddard Space Flight Center building on the ground floor of NASA' s Greenbelt, Maryland, have a curiosity at 13:00 every day in a room without large windows full of scientific equipment and computers The researchers said.
Scientists are looking for signs of life on Mars.
Internal curiosity is "a marvel of miniaturization," according to Charles Malespin, principal investigator of SAM's Sample Analysis Unit, an electron microscope-sized chemist lab.
"It's the most complex tool NASA has sent to other planets," said Malespin, who has invested his profession in this project since 2006.
SAM samples samples of Mars soil by heating in an oven reaching 1000 ° C.
Hot rocks emit gases that are separated and analyzed by a tool that provides a sample "fingerprint".
In Goddard, Maeva Millan, a postdoctoral researcher in France, compares this chemical fingerprint with experiments performed on known molecules.
When they look alike, she can say, "Oh, right."
The researchers are grateful to SAM that Mars has complex organic molecules.
And SAM has helped scientists know that the geologically speaking Mars surface is much younger than previously thought.
"If you go to Mars, you do not want to bring things that already use resources like water," Malespin said.
"You can bring a big oven and have all the water you want to take the soil and heat it to release it."
The same goes for the various materials that can be used to make rocket fuel to make Red Planet serve as the future gas station for rockets.
At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, about 20 men and women form a curious team on the other side of the United States.
Frank Hartman, who led curiosity and another old-fashioned exploration opportunity, said, "I started seeing images on Mars and now I can understand where Rover is now.
"And my feelings sometimes said that I would be the first person to see some of these photos on the planet."
The main task of a Mars driver is to create a rover command sequence that follows the next or next day, lasting 24 hours and 40 minutes on Mars. There is no joystick, and you can not communicate with robot car in real time.
Whether the driver is buried by a dusty dust storm early this year, or the wheel of curiosity is a hole in a sharp rock, there is a delay every time the driver realizes something is wrong.
Or a curious drilling machine was broken, or it took several months to resolve what happened earlier this year.
"We have never been to such a place before," Hartman said.
"So we should always know that we know very little about what we are facing."
Over the years, this scientist-driver will be attached to the robot. Hartman and his colleagues were saddened when the opportunity was silent, using tools around Mars for 14 years.
Opportunity "retired with honor," said Hartman.
The curiosity that landed in 2012 traveled a little over 19.75km so far. We have to wait another year before we can achieve our goal of Mount Sharp.
A few months later, Mars will lose its monopoly. One American and two Europeans will land on Earth in 2020.
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